Upgrades to Richland 1 high school athletic fields proposed

Richland 1 officials will hold a series of public meetings over the next few weeks on its plan to spend $39.5 million to upgrade high school athletic facilities, including construction of a new district stadium at W.J. Keenan High School.

Those upgrades, along with an additional $20.5 million in capital improvements to district elementary schools and the career and technology center, also will mean a tax increase for property owners – roughly $60 a year for a home valued at $100,000. The district will finance the improvements through the purchase of general obligation bonds.

The board, meeting last Tuesday, had been prepared to move forward but reconsidered after several parents complained they had been unable to get information on the plans for each school. The plan also contained redistricting changes, which had not been aired publicly.

“We just want to know what is going on and have an opportunity to participate in the discussion,” said Vance Stricklin, one of several parents who urged the board to circulate more information before voting on the plan. “We left with the hope that we will be allowed to have some imput but still concerned that everything is drawn up.”

Stricklin said he had attended an earlier community meeting but heard nothing more about the issue.

“It went straight from ‘you can offer some input’ to ‘here’s the plan,’” he said. A Freedom of Information request to the board yielded no response.

The board agreed without dissent to allow more discussion after consulting with district officials and learning it would not affect the timetable for issuing bonds.

The district hired the project and consulting firm Cumming to do the facility study. The company estimated the construction timeline would begin in late 2015 and be completed by summer 2018.

Nearly $9.5 million would be spent to develop a varsity competition stadium at Keenan High School. The district’s three other stadiums – Bolden, Memorial and Lower Richland – would be upgraded with new sports turf, new bleachers, new restrooms and other amenities at a cost of about $5.5 million each.

Playing fields at Columbia, A.C. Flora, Dreher, and Eau Claire also would be rehabilitated and upgraded. New tennis courts at Dreher would be constructed and the old ones, which are not currently used because of drainage issues, would be transformed into additional parking.

Among highlights for each high school:

Columbia: $3.3 million for upgrading football field and practice field, and adding sports turf, new scoreboard, new bleachers, new canteen, and new competition lighting.

A.C. Flora: $2.9 million for upgrading football field, reusing Memorial Stadium scoreboard, adding sports turf, new canteen and restrooms, competition lighting, parking, pressbox and PA system.

Dreher: $4 million for new natural turf field, new tennis courts (there is an option to consider building courts behind Memorial Stadium), adding new bleachers, scoreboard, competition lighting, and canteen. Current tennis courts would be demolished and used for replacement parking.

Eau Claire: $1.59 million for upgrading football field, adding new sports turf, new scoreboard and new competition lighting.

Keenan: $9.47 million for upgrades to field, new field house, new 5,000-seat bleachers, new canteen, new press box, and new scoreboard.

Lower Richland: $5.6 million for upgrading of natural turf stadium field, repair or replacement of bleachers, adding new pressbox, scoreboard, restrooms and parking.

Charles F. Bolden Stadium: $5.87 million for installation of new sports turf, replacment of bleachers, adding new pressbox, new scoreboard, new restrooms and parking.

Memorial Stadium: $5.1 million for upgrading natural turf field, replacement of bleachers, adding new pressbox, new scoreboard, new restrooms and parking.