Archive for Thursday, March 10, 2005

Fields of their dreams

Complex sports: Facilities package a distant possibility or the future for BLHS athletics?

March 10, 2005

When it comes to bond issues in general and those ballot questions in Basehor-Linwood specifically, voters tend to have differing opinions than do those proposing them. And, if for no other reason, school district officials will be the first to temper enthusiasm generated by the possibility of adding a multi-million dollar sports complex to Basehor-Linwood High School.

Currently, the Basehor-Linwood School District advisory council -- a group of Basehor and Linwood community members -- is considering whether to endorse a $20.2 million new school construction bond issue to voters (see related story, page 10A).

The advisory council will continue those discussions March 29. The meeting will be concentrated on the $20.2 million scenario, which is tailored for academics, but will also explore whether there's any interest to add a sports facilities package. All told, the sports facilities, to be located on 15 acres at the high school, could total as much as $6.5 million.

Admittedly, the sports facilities scenario is in the infant stage and "has a long way to fly," said Jill Hackett, Basehor-Linwood School District superintendent, before becoming a reality. As of now, it's nothing more than a concept with preliminary designs and rough estimates.

"(The advisory council) hasn't had time to process it like the school scenario," Hackett said. "They just need time and that's my plan, to give them time."

Interest for the sports facilities package was generated in January when two of seven advisory council sub-groups requested information be presented regarding options for new sports facilities. The school district has simply followed up on that request, administrators said.

Given the school district's past voter history of rejecting bond issues -- in 2003, two $29.9 million proposals failed at the polls -- the new school construction question, let alone the sports package, may not seem probable. However, listed below are items the advisory council will consider for the sports complex, and thus, a glimpse into what's possible.

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  • ¢ $3.1 million for a natatorium. The facility would house a six-lane, 25 meter long swimming pool with a dive well.

¢ $2 million for renovations to the existing football stadium. The renovations would include, among others, an addition of 2,500 seats, irrigation system and field turf, an artificial playing surface that more closely resembles real grass. Currently, the football stadium seats approximately 2,500 spectators.

¢ $111,500 for two tennis courts.

¢ $320,000 for a football and soccer practice field.

¢ $250,000 for a competition baseball field. The price tag for the baseball fields could increase by $182,500 if advisory council members and school officials chose to include a grass infield, bleachers, press box, warning track and sprinkler system.

¢ $120,000 for a competition softball field. Like the baseball field, should popular sentiment lean toward building something more, the price could increase by $93,500 for similar additions.

¢ $334,500 for items needed at the complex such as sidewalks, parking lots, restrooms and concession stand, among others.

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  • If the sentiment of advisory council members is to move forward with adding sports facilities to the possible bond issue, Hackett said two questions could be proposed to voters -- one covering new school construction and academics, and the other the sports facilities.

"We may be wise to pose two separate questions," Hackett said. She added "I would recommend that strong consideration be given to two questions."

Before delving too deeply into a theoretical, what if, conversation regarding the sports facilities, Basehor-Linwood High School Athletic director Joe Keeler, like Hackett, prefaced comments with precaution.

"This is a process and we just haven't gotten that far along yet," Keeler said.

However, in terms of potential, should the sports package be proposed and receive voter approval, the scope of the high school's athletic program would be vastly different.

Some baseball and softball games would be played at the high school rather than at the Basehor Field of Dreams complex north of Basehor on Fairmount Road. Tennis and swimming teams could be added to the list of sports offered. The football facility would seat double its current capacity.

"I would say there's a whole list of things I would consider as possibilities," Keeler said.

Keeler said if the sports facilities were added to the high school, "it would give us more flexibility" in hosting games, tournaments and other events. Most likely, it would not end the high school's affiliation with the Field of Dreams complex, Keeler said.

"We'd see where we're at and what's available," Keeler said. "I'd say there would still be a possibility of us doing things with them."

Adding tennis and swimming teams to the high school would bring Basehor-Linwood in line with league rival Bonner Springs, which offers both sports. Those teams wouldn't be added at BLHS unless the tennis courts and swimming pool were available, Keeler said.

"Obviously having a facility is a paramount requirement," he said. "We feel it's important we have a facility to offer before we add a team."

Should the sports complex receive support and materialize, the public would have some use of the facilities, school officials said. To what degree, like the academic and sports complex scenarios themselves, is undetermined at this point.

In large part, public feedback from the March 29 advisory council meeting will shape whether the sports package is pie in the sky or the stuff dreams are made of.

"I just don't know how strong the feeling is for adding sports facilities," Hackett said. "This is just one more consideration we're willing to talk through."

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