Wood BOE to discuss athletic facilities

PARKERSBURG – When the Wood County Board of Education meets next week to look at funding repairs to athletic facilities, particularly Parkersburg High’s Stadium Field, President Tim Yeater said there needs to be a meeting of the minds.

School and PHS Stadium Committee officials met with the board Tuesday seeking approval to proceed with fundraising and a plan to reopen the bleachers of Stadium Field. The 90-year-old stadium needs about a million dollars in repairs to open in time for football season.

“The 800-pound gorilla in the room, is what kind of money are we willing to put up,” board member Jim Fox asked Tuesday.

During the meeting board members broached the idea of providing funds for the projects. That idea was expanded to explore needs to athletic facilities at the county’s three high schools. And then again to review the school system’s facilities plan.

Yeater said Wednesday officials need a measured approach to things.

“There needs to be some common ground as to how much the board can allocate and what sort of expectations there will be for the facilities,” he said.

Sue Woodward, assistant superintendent of Wood County Schools, said during the past three years the school system has spent approximately $35,000 at both Williamstown and Parkersburg South high schools for athletic facility improvements.

“Both of them had approximately the same amount,” she said,

Last summer Erickson requested $80,000 to resurface the track at Erickson Field. The board declined to appropriate the money. Woodward said the school system assisted with locker room improvements, sprinklers and heating and gas lines.

Williamstown High School also requested funding for replacement of its bleachers, at an estimated cost of $125,000. Some of that work was done by boosters and volunteers. Woodward said the funds don’t calculate the in-kind labor and equipment costs provided by the school system.

“We wouldn’t have written a check for $125,000,” she said. “We didn’t have it.”

Stadium Field’s bleachers require several hundred thousand dollars in improvements to bring at least part of the bleachers into useable condition. Parkersburg High Principal Pam Goots said the goal is to have sections fixed by football season. She said the need for revenue generated by football offsets the cost of athletics at the high school. She noted Stadium Field served as host to 90 non-PHS events last year.

Officials said if the stadium remains closed in the fall, the athletics department stands to lose about $200,000. Goots said the intent of the stadium committee is to get approval to begin fundraising and seek a bid package.

Charlotte Potter, treasurer for the stadium committee, said they have about $69,000 in the bank. Officials noted the committee has raised $2.5 million for the facilities since 1996. That includes sponsors signs and a 50 cent tax on tickets used for upkeep and repairs.

“We have to assume some of the responsibility of maintaining these facilities,” Yeater said. “We can’t keep pushing it onto the boosters’ backs. We have to assume at least part of the responsibility.”

After Tuesday’s meeting Potter said she was hoping the board would designate $900,000 for the project and the stadium committee could come up with $200,000. That would allow a long-term option to be done on the home side of the bleachers and be completed by late summer. Potter said it would also give the committee time to raise money to refurbish the visitors side for the 2014 season.

In the meantime, Goots noted the underside of the visitors’ section, used by the baseball team, can still be used, despite the bleachers being closed. Engineering officials said precautions would need to be taken with regard to chunks of concrete falling.

While the stadium is a pressing issue for Parkersburg High and an area of concern for Big Red athletics so too is Williamstown Elementary. The elementary – a new elementary – is the top priority in the county’s comprehensive education facilities plan. Woodward said the building is more than 100 years old and houses classrooms in the basement.

Emergency repairs have been done on the roof and transmitting enough electricity through the facility to run modern equipment is a hurdle. And the building is not handicapped accessible.

“Handicapped students who reside in Williamstown have to attend (elementary) school elsewhere,” Woodward said.

Costs to build a new elementary school would run about $10 million.

The elementary school continues to function, unlike Stadium Field, which is closed.

“It is adequate,” Woodward said. “But barely adequate.”

“The bottom line is students,” Yeater said. “We want to look at what we do to best provide services for education. Athletics is secondary.”