Stadium project approaches long anticipated start

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aerial-view-2-final.jpg

This is an artist?s rendering of the new stadium to be built by USD 410 and Tabor College. Some modifications have been made in recent weeks to the original plans in order to offset cost increases during the 16 months of litigation.

Now that the legal hurdles have been cleared and the game plan has been tweaked, planners from Tabor College and USD 410 are looking eagerly toward the starting line for construction on their jointly owned stadium and athletic facility.

Bids will be reviewed next week, and if all goes well the race will begin around March 1 to complete the $5-plus million project in time for the fall sports season.

In the end, Mother Nature may be the game maker or breaker.

?The big factor will be the weather and getting contractors here,? said Doug Huxman, USD 410 superintendent. ?If the weather cooperates, everybody says they can be done.?

Whether the project makes the deadline, planning committee members from both entities agree the prize will be worth the effort: having one of the best high school and small-college facilities in the state.

?On the day it?s completed it will be the best facility in our conference,? said Rusty Allen, vice president for athletics at Tabor. ?There may be schools who have a piece (of the project) that is a little nicer than ours, but when you take the whole facility as a whole, it will be the best facility in the conference.?

Hard work, long haul

The original project?50-50 ownership with each party contributing just under $2.02 million?was narrowly approved by USD 410 patrons in a bond election in June 2007.

But it was forced to the sidelines for 16 months after patron Raymond Brandt filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of joint ownership of public-school property.

The district court finally ruled in the district?s favor last August, but Brandt filed an appeal in September. The district then reached a financial settlement with Brandt in early October for $27,500 to drop the suit.

That cleared the way for the district and the college to move ahead with the project, but with one more considerable challenge: Over the 16 months from the time the suit was filed until it was settled, the estimated cost of construction had increased by $800,000.

As a result, the two parties have been working to bring the project back to within the $4.04 million partnership?without reducing quality.

Planning committee members from both entities believe they have accomplished that.

?We have ?valued engineered? all over the place while maintaining real quality,? Allen said. ?We just looked closer.?

Change in strategy

So how has the original plan changed since it was proposed in summer 2007?

By one measure, the project has actually been enhanced. Originally planned for natural turf, the new football field will be artificial turf after all.

While the project was tied up in the legal process, the planning committee halted its work. But by the time the settlement was reached, several transitions had occurred in the membership, including the USD 410 superintendent (Huxman for Gordon Mohn), the Tabor College president (Jules Glanzer for Larry Nikkel), the athletic directors at both schools (Robert Rempel for Max Heinrichs at USD 410 and Allen for Don Brubacher at Tabor).

The one ongoing member was Heinrichs.

?Max the whole time wanted an artificial field, but it was almost as if we thought we couldn?t afford it,? Allen said. ?So when we came back together we just took the approach that we?re going to get one, and we?re going to do whatever else we need to do because artificial turf has so many advantages.?

To fund the improvement and still stay within the partnership funding parameters, the proposed football locker room was removed from the partnership?about a $1 million component. Tabor agreed to raise funds for that project on its own.

?USD 410 will have a need for locker room space, and of course they?re going to use it on game days,? Allen said. ?But their need for it is very minimal.?

Added Heinrichs: ?I believe by pulling it out, Tabor can build a more functional locker room for less money than what a public school can do.

?We?re not going to use it except for halftime, which at most would be 10 hours a year,? he added. ?By pulling it out, we freed up money to get an artificial turf that we wouldn?t have had otherwise. For USD 410, we could go without the artificial turf, but for Tabor I believe it?s a great recruiter.?

The two-story locker room will be built into the side of the hill on the north end of the present field, and will include a V.I.P. viewing area on the upper level.

To help raise funds for the locker room, a maintenance endowment and related expenditures, Tabor College hosted a kick-off event Monday for its ?Expanding Our Influence? campaign for the new athletic complex.

Additional cuts

Beyond the locker room, the planning committee has made additional adjustments to the original facility plan in order to compensate for the dollars lost during the legal process.

The shape of the eight-lane running track will be modified, but the turf field will still be used for both soccer and football games.

Also, the press box will be slightly smaller to eliminate the need for an elevator (a $100,000 savings), and the development of a hard-surface parking lot on the east side of the football field will be delayed.

Attractive features

The reductions are minor compared to the features that remain. Among them: goal posts that easily can be adjusted to accommodate college and high school heights and widths; a new scoreboard and public address system; an attractive concession and restroom facility; and elevated seating for around 3,000 fans?including a designated area near the field accessible to people with disabilities.

Heinrichs said although he sees the value of the project for football, it?s the advantage for track and field that he likes most.

Ten designated lanes down the home straightaway will enable high school, middle school and college athletes to practice simultaneously, and the jumping and throwing areas are designed to accommodate wind for any direction.

?We set it up so it will be a great practice facility,? Hein?richs said. ?If things come in the way we want them to, we?ll have a track that won?t beat up our athletes and that all of us can practice on at the same time. It?s going to be tremendous.?

Community asset

The changes implemented won?t diminish the functional or visual impact of the project, according to Heinrichs.

?At one point I thought we were going to have to scrap the grand-ness of it when you enter,? he said. ?But it?s still going to be a nice-looking stadium when you come in from the west.?

Heinrichs, Allen and Huxman agree the project will be an asset for the entire community?and a testimony to what a small town can accomplish through creative partnerships.

?I think this is a great project because we?re both getting double for what we paid for,? Hein?richs said.

?I believe other communities are going to jump on board because of what we did,? he added. ?When you?re a small community, you?ve got to have collaboration and partnership.?

Said Allen: ?This project is not just breaking ground legally, but also from a community point of view. It?s pretty tough for a private college to give up some of its land authority.

?But as I?ve observed our interaction, it hasn?t been that tough for us. The reason I think it?s possible is because there?s a lot of trust.?

That trust may be tested when it comes down to working through the nitty-gritty operational details of running the facility day by day; an operations committee has been formed to begin work in that area.

Given their experiences so far, though, both entities are confident the trust will hold.

?The history of cooperation here has just evolved over the years,? Huxman said. ?There haven?t been any trust issues in the year and a half I?ve been here.

?Disagreements? Sure. But in terms of everybody looking for the same outcome?that?s never been in question.?

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