Letters were distributed to homes of students of Collingswood School district stating the intent to demolish Shields Stadium. The members of the Board of Education for the Collingswood school district have decided to raze the historic grandstands at the Middle and High School campus and replace with a smaller set of seating and temporary facilities to make up the difference for the next few years. How did we get here?
As part of the information outreach to the community, the Collingswood Board of Education scheduled 3 tours for the public to see the current condition of the High School’s outdoor athletic facilities ahead of the vote for the Outdoor Enrichment Bond Referendum. The vote was on March 13, 2018 and the community voted with an overwhelming no to the planning committee. The project was projected to cost 13.7 Million Dollars with 95% to be paid by taxpayers- $700,000 would have been in State Aid.
What Did The Bond Referendum Include For The Stadium?
The construction project would have included demolition of the current 10-acre facility. Including 2 baseball fields, the football field, archery and track spaces, a practice field, basketball and tennis courts, running track, and 4,000-seat grandstands that has a concession stand, bathrooms, and many storage spaces housed underneath.
The new construction would have involved refilling and re-grading the field, reorienting the field to face more of an East-West Direction for the football/ soccer/ lacrosse/ field hockey field, new grandstands with seating for 1,500, a new 6-lane track, archery space, 2 new baseball fields, 2 practice fields, and a combination tennis & basketball court space. Underneath the new seating will be a 1-story building that will house team rooms, restrooms, and concessions. Also slated was an additional structure built that would have served as storage for the teams and clubs and a learning space for the district’s 18-21 Program.
Here is what I saw when I took the tour:
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Collingswood High School Stadium Site Survey 2/21/2018
The Community Debated About The Condition Of The Facilities
A lot of discussions had centered around which is a better choice for our community.
- A total replacement
- Repair or improvements made to the current facility
World Cafe Meetings- The Board Listens?
The Harvest Report from the World Cafe Meetings from September and October 2017 were also shared earlier this week. This report showed where community members were positive on the plan, negative, and questions that were still outstanding.
I question the intent of these meetings with the community. When this same report was presented at a Board of Education meeting then-Board President Hatzell seemed to minimize the intent of those who took the time to attend, listen, and give their feedback.
The Board Moved forward with the special election, despite many concerned residents coming to a regular meeting of the Board of Education on 11/20/2017 . The wording for the ballot was approved at a meeting on 2/21/2018.
The Board Acts After The Failure Of The Bond Referendum Vote
On April 23, 2018 the Collingswood Board of Education held a special meeting to discuss this and other issues. At this meeting, the board debated whether the better option was to do minimal repairs for $250,000, demolish the grandstands for $500,000 or do the repairs to the existing structure for $1.4 million.
At the end of this meeting, the Board approved a withdrawal from the Capital Reserve account for $750,000 to be used for some purpose at the stadium that was to be later determined after more research.
A Plan To Demolish The Grandstands
At the regular April 30, 2018 meeting, the Board reviewed the options for the seating, storage, bathroom, and concessions that are within the grandstands at the Collingswood High and Middle School Complex Stadium. The decision to use the money from the Capital Reserve to demolish the existing structure and erect temporary structures (Temporary Structures include the purchase of “Portable” Bleachers for 500 spectators, Portable Toilets, Storage Containers) to meet minimal needs at the stadium. This will be sent out to bid in May 2018 with an award in June 2018.
What About 4th Of July Fireworks?
What do you think? Is this the best move for Collingswood? Is demolishing a historic structure, uncovering unknown hazards, leaving programs without adequate facilities, and a year-to-year budget spend the best move? Will the Board start a new Planning Committee soon to launch a new plan? Will members of the community support this choice?
More About The Project:
If you would like to know a little about CEAG’s history of covering the Bond Referendum, click here.
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