Written by Don Ratzlaff Wednesday, 25 April 2007 10:14
|The dotted line around the colored areas indicate the boundaries of the property that will be jointly owned by USD 410 and Tabor College if the bond election passes in June. Click on photo to enlarge.
Schools propose shared facility for football and track.
The most unconventional portion of the USD 410 bond proposal involves a partnership with Tabor College to build a football and track facility on the college campus.
The partnership involves not only a high school and college athletic program, also a public and private institution.
“To us, it just doesn’t make sense to have two facilities in Hillsboro,” Superintendent Gordon Mohn said about the partnership.
The total cost of this project is $4.033 million, but the institutions will split the cost down the middle at $2.016 million for each.
Tabor built the existing football facilities in the mid-1960s; USD 410 constructed the current running track in the 1980s with an agreement that Tabor would provide the maintenance.
The need for upgraded facilities in 2007 is apparent to both parties, Mohn said.
“The south end of the track is falling off—they just don’t last that long,” Mohn said. “Bleacher seating is inadequate. Even if you say ‘we could get by,’ it’s dangerous, and we don’t have handicap accessibility. I know it’s hard for me to climb up. I can’t imagine what it’s like for those 80-year-olds.
“Sure, it was acceptable on the safety side for kids, but our world is different today.”
The project, developed by a task force representing both institutions, would replace the current eight-lane track, provide elevated seating for about 2,500 people on the home side and 500 on the visitors’ side, add about 350 more parking slots adjacent to the complex, include a new press box, concession area, public restrooms and dressing rooms, and feature an irrigated natural-grass football playing surface.
Additional property east and south of the current track, to be purchased from the City of Hillsboro, will be used for a parking lot with 234 parking slots and space for field events during track season.
As part of its own long-range, Tabor College plans to acquire additional acreage south of the current football stadium and practice fields, but the land will belong solely to the college.
The entire football-track complex would be fenced for security and owned jointly by USD 410 and Tabor.
“The agreement would be a joint-ownership agreement,” Mohn said. “It’s not one that says it’s 50-50. It’s joint—we own it together. It’s our common property. So Tabor will have to change its deed to say that we own it jointly.”
Mohn said maintenance costs also will be split down the middle.
“We’ll have an agreement that identifies how we do that,” he added. “We haven’t settled yet on who will actually do the maintenance. If Tabor staff does it, we’d reimburse Tabor for half its cost.”
The plan also calls for the formation of a governing board that would include one representative from USD 410 and one from Tabor.
“There’s an appeal process and an arbitration process, so in case we can’t agree on something it goes through those appeals and eventually it goes to mediation,” Mohn said.
“A federal mediation board would kick in (at some point), but there are a couple of steps involved before you get there,” he added. “We want that in place because we know eventually there will be some differences of opinion and we want to resolve them.”
To keep the project within the $4 million cap, planners opted for a natural-grass football field.
“We talked about an artificial-turf field—it’s about $750,000,” Mohn said. “From the school’s standpoint, Hillsboro High School doesn’t need an artificial-turf field. It’d be nice to have, but for a 3A high school, we don’t need a field like that.
“So we’ve kind of taken the position that if Tabor, after they’ve raised their portion, has a supporter who would say, ‘We’ll fund an artificial-turf field,’ then that would be something Tabor would add on.”
The Olympic running track surrounding the playing field would have a different dimension than the current one.
“The track actually moves west (several feet) because an Olympic track is shorter and wider than our track,” Mohn said. “The reason for that is we want to get a soccer field inside the football field, so it’s got to be wider.
“Right now, I don’t think Tabor’s plans are to play competitive soccer on there. They’ll use Vernon Wiebe Field for competitive soccer. But we want to make sure we could do it (if it becomes necessary in the future).”
The interior ends of the track will be hard-surfaced to accommodate high jump end and a steeple-chase pit.
At this point, plans call for the set of portable stands USD 410 and Tabor each acquired to be used for visitor seating.
“If the rest of (the total project) comes in under bid, then we may use some permanent bleachers there and use these (portable units) to supplement it,” Mohn said.
“If we don’t have any extra money, then we’ll use our portable bleachers there. But we want this (area under the stands) to be concrete so if we decide we’re ready to put permanent seating in, we can.”
The dressing rooms will be designed to accommodate a college program on a daily basis as well as high school varsity games once a week.
“We’ll have three dressing rooms: one larger dressing room for Tabor, then two smaller dressing rooms that can be opened into one, so that when Tabor has home events the visiting team can use those combined dressing rooms,” Mohn said.
“When we play there, we don’t have to get into Tabor’s area,” he added. “We’ll use the one smaller dressing room for pregame and halftime—we'll probably still dress at the high school—and the visiting team will be in the other one.”
The football-track facility will have two main ticket gates, one on the west side if the facility, near a new hard-surfaced parking lot with 114 parking spaces, and the other at the southeast corner off the new gravel parking lot.
Mohn said having an unpaved parking area will require a variance from the city.
“We’ve talked to them about it, but we don’t have that yet,” Mohn said. “They’ve talked like they’re willing to do it, but actually it will have to go through the Planning Commission first.
“That’s something we’ll have to face, but our goal was to keep this right at $4 million. We couldn’t hard-surface that lot and keep it at $4 million.”
The city also would need to make street improvements on the south end of South Wilson to accommodate that parking lot.
To reach the parking lot and main entrance on the west side of the facility, Tabor will provide a hard-surface road off of D Street that extends along the west edge of the college tennis courts and baseball field. The road may require the relocation of the college’s Historic Church.
Mohn said the two institutions are developing an agreement regarding use of the facilities.
“Part of that agreement is going to be that Tabor can’t consistently use it for practice,” he said. “If they choose to, then we have grass problems. That’s why Tabor is planning to build (an additional) practice field.
“The agreement will be something like each party has permission to use the playing field one day for pregame practice,” he said. “So we could down there on Thursday night if we want, and they can go down on Friday to get ready for the game.”
To keep the field in playable condition, use will be limited.
“We won’t play our JV and middle school games there,” Mohn said.
That the new football-track facility would be located on the college campus will have an impact.
“By location, we’re saying, yes, Tabor will probably use it more than we do because it’s adjacent to the campus,” Mohn said. “And if you look on the football side, they’ll usually have one more home football game than we do.
“On the track side, we can have 100 kids out for track and they may have 30, so we’ll get more use of it during track season.”
Mohn said the new facility will be nice, but not state-of-the-art.
“We’ve approached it saying, if you’re at Hesston, Lyons and Halstead, the school district would have paid all the costs for those athletic facilities,” Mohn said. “We’re going to pay half the cost, get something that is as good as—and I think probably better than—what Hesston or Halstead have right now, and they have nice facilities.
“It’s going to be a nice place for high school activities,” he added. “And, instead of us investing $4 million, we’re investing $2 million.”
An added benefit for local taxpayers, Mohn said, is that 30 percent of USD 410’s $2 million will come via state aid.
One of the last things to be determined will be what to name the new facility, but both parties agree the name should reflect the partnership they have forged.
“We’ve agreed that in some way we want to continue to honor Del Reimer (former Tabor athletic director), and we want to recognize the Wienses, who gave the $1.1 million (to Tabor).
“But we also want to name the facility something that isn’t Tabor Field and isn’t Trojan Field, but is something that reflects a community effort.”