By SHEA STASKOWSKI
A fieldhouse at Starkville High School is the top need for Starkville School District athletic facilities, Athletic Director Stan Miller reported Tuesday night.
Miller gave the SSD Board of Trustees a report on athletic facilities needs during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night.
Miller, who had several coaches and members of the band staff at the meeting supporting him, talked about the projects most in need of attention, naming a fieldhouse as the top priority.
The fieldhouse has long been on the list of projects for the SSD, and has recently been in consideration in regards to the remaining $3.6 million bond issue.
“Very little has been done in the last 10 years to improve the athletic facilities,” Miller said. “To me, this is where we as a district must build pride.”
Miller said the current fieldhouse has long outgrown the number of athletes it needs to support, and sports like volleyball, soccer and softball have very limited access to the current facilities, and often have to lend the facilities they do use to visiting teams during competition.
The new fieldhouse, Miller said, would house all sports and booster club endeavors. Miller estimated the cost at $1.2 million, but asked the district to put forth $1 million, with the remaining money raised through corporate sponsors.
Accompanying Miller was attorney Jay Perry, who serves on a committee with Miller and is the voice of SHS football, to deliver a report on artificial turf as apposed to grass.
In his report, Perry said, “By making the investment in a year-round synthetic surface, Starkville will realize benefits that will greatly enhance the educational experience for the students.”
The turf, which will be made from recycled tires, is a cost-effective alternative to natural grass, Perry explained. He stated that over a 30 year term, turf will cost the district $1.08 million as opposed to grass, which will cost the district $1.44 million.
Though the initial cost is more than grass, Perry said, the maintenance is almost non-existant with a life-stan of at least 8 years, while grass requires almost constant maintenance.
Turf would also offer increased playability, better safety, no watering, no fertilizing, no chemicals, no painting and it is more environmentally friendly saving 1 million gallons of water annually. Perry cited a source that said turf increases the safety of players from 3 to 21 percent depending on the injury.
Perry also noted that turf would allow the district to host more events like band concerts, sports competitions and community service projects that the district could charge for to help recoup a portion of the cost of the turf. He added that schools like Petal, South Panola, Pearl and Oak Grove currently have upgraded turf facilities.
The synthetic turf would cost the district roughly $750,000, which Miller estimated is on the “high end,” versus the $150,000 the district had planned to spend to recrown the existing grass.
However, Miller asked the district for just $200,000 to fund the turf project saying he would again rely on corporate sponsors for the remaining funds. The turf also allows for corporate advertisements to be added to the perimeter of the field to off set some of the cost of installation.
Assistant Supt. Walter Gonsoulin explained that the $150,000 to recrown the current field would come out of the district’s budget and not the bond issue, and that the remaining $50,000 is in the budget.
The sports facilities presentation segued into ongoing discussion regarding the remaining $3.6 million of the $26.5 million bond issue voters approved three years ago for major school renovations.
At the December board meeting, the board agreed the top priority was upgrading district bathrooms, especially at Armstrong, and allowed Gonsoulin to seek bids on the improvements. Currently, the project has been advertised for bids, but bids are not yet available.
This led to discussion regarding Miller’s presentation and that fact that the board doesn’t have a concrete dollar amount to subtract from the bond issue for the bathrooms, which means they cannot look into further projects until they know how much the bathrooms will cost.
Board member Lee Brand suggested the board seek bids on the remaining three proposed projects — gym air conditioning throughout district schools, improving the SHS parking lot paving and the fieldhouse — to allow the board the ability to prioritize the remaining projects depending on the price quoted.
The board approved Brand’s suggestion to allow Gonsoulin to seek bids on the remaining projects.
The board decided on district goals after months of deliberation. The first district goal is to “be a high-performing district by 2012, which means 65 percent of all students will score proficient or above.” The second goal is to “increase graduation rate from 604. to 75 percent by 2012. And the third goal is “Sixty percent of the Starkville School District’s student population will participate in one or more non-core area programs in the visual and performing arts, athletics, advanced course work and/or community service.”
The third goal was the goal that the board discussed the most as they wanted a goal that reflected the non-academic side of the SSD, but they needed it to be a goal that was measurable.
“We came up with a goal that could actually be measured,” Supt. Judy Couey said in regards to the final goal. “It is a goal that is important and can be reached.”
The city school board will next Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. at the Greensboro Center.