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By CARL SMITH
Starkville High School athletic director Stan Miller knows he has an uphill fight against budget constraints if he wants to find funding for various athletic facilities improvements.
But Miller showed his grassroots campaigning skills to the Starkville School District Board of Trustees Tuesday when he unveiled $1.3 million in projects and told the board he is working to procure funds to offset the costs with corporate donations, an anonymous donor who is willing to make a major contribution and another unnamed entity that could share one projectâ€™s future costs.
Miller unveiled his vision for new and upgraded athletic facilities to SSD trustees Tuesday during the boardâ€™s monthly meeting. His plans include replacing the football and soccer field with synthetic turf, providing the districtâ€™s track with an all-weather covering and constructing six additional tennis courts at the current SHS facility.
â€śWhat weâ€™ve realized is itâ€™ll take a lot of different groups working together with the school district if weâ€™re going to pull these projects off,â€ť Miller said following Tuesdayâ€™s meeting.
Millerâ€™s presentation was simply an update for the board as the district approaches its budget season. Board members said they were understanding and sympathetic to the districtâ€™s athletic needs, but no official action was taken on any of the proposed projects.
The football field is the districtâ€™s most pressing athletic improvement project, Miller told board members during his presentation. He said the fieldâ€™s underground sprinkler system appears to be in such a state of disrepair it floods some areas while not providing enough water to grow grass in others. Miller said coaches have observed water bubbling through the ground in some parts.
After the district spent thousands of dollars before last yearâ€™s football season to re-sprig the field, numerous dead patches remain on its surface. The problem is not new for SSD, Miller said, and the board can expect to come back to the issue in the future.
To alleviate the problem, Miller says the district needs to install a synthetic turf field which the football and soccer teams can utilize during their seasons. The estimated cost of installing a synthetic field is $560,000. Miller said corporate donations can be utilized to fun the costly project. As of July 1, he said corporate donations will total $54,000. That number is projected to reach $204,000 in nine years.
If the district chooses to repair the sprinkler system, address drainage issues on the sidelines and re-sprig the field, the district could spend almost $120,000 on the project.
Board member Eddie Myles said he hates that the district has to continually address the fieldâ€™s nagging problems each year.
â€śLetâ€™s say we spend $80,000 to $150,000 on the field each year. Weâ€™ve got to ask ourselves if thatâ€™s the wisest thing to do,â€ť Assistant Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin said following Millerâ€™s presentation. â€śWeâ€™ve got to get to a point where we see things long term.â€ť
Future upgrades to the football field could come in a packaged project which also addresses the SHS trackâ€™s surface.
When the track was constructed in 2000, Miller said the district â€śbasically ran out of moneyâ€ť and could not properly seal its surface. Since its construction, cracks and other structural problems developed, preventing the district from holding meets.
â€śWeâ€™ve never even seen our track kids perform,â€ť Myles said following Millerâ€™s presentation. â€śItâ€™s unfair.â€ť
â€śIf you want shin splints, go run on our track,â€ť Miller said.
Approximately $500,000 would be needed to construct a new racing facility, but Miller said an engineering firm could tear down the current trackâ€™s surface, rebuild it and add a final layer for $350,000.
To cover the track projectâ€™s cost, Miller hinted at possibly obtaining a large donation from a SHS graduate.
â€śOmis (Avant) has a personal friend â€¦ who does not want to have his name disclosed,â€ť Miller said. â€śHe has about seven companies he owns, but heâ€™s gradually phasing out of the corporations. He just told us he wanted to make a substantial donation to the district. He knows how much weâ€™re looking at (in regard to the track projectâ€™s cost).â€ť
As for constructing new tennis courts, Miller said the initial $390,000 estimate includes the new playing surfaces and provides lighting and fencing upgrades for the whole facility.
Additional facilities would be utilized in developing a feeder tennis program for SSD middle school students and could spurt Starkville Tennis Association membership growth.
In turn, STA tennis tournaments would attract athletes from all across the region, Miller said, which would boost Starkvilleâ€™s 2 percent food, beverage and hotel tax coffers.
Currently, a one-third ownership agreement exists between SHS, STA and Starkville Parks and Recreation.
A fourth group which possibly would take an equal share of ownership and costs in the future has emerged, Miller said, but he would not disclose the organization or its members. A meeting is scheduled this week between interested parties, he said.
Miller also said STA members could approach the United States Tennis Association for a grant which would cover up to $50,000 for the project.
SSD Board of Trustees President Keith Coble asked Miller if the district could construct three courts at a time while working toward 12, but Miller said the incremental additions would not supply major tournaments until the final number of courts was constructed.
School board members took Millerâ€™s presentation under consideration as the district will soon turn its focus to compiling next yearâ€™s operating budget.