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Volunteers mull stadium options

They don’t know where it will be built or what it will encompass, but the Oak Harbor School District Stadium Team forged ahead Wednesday night with a discussion about the cost and financing of a replacement grandstand and stadium facility.

School Superintendent Rick Schulte told the group of 50 people that planning for a new sports facility is like buying a new car: first you decide how much you can afford to spend, then you decide what fits that price range.

Schulte presented four alternative cost levels, from the Geo Metro-like minimal Level A, for $500,000 to $1 million, to the Cadillac Level D, with a tournament-quality field, in the $4 million to $6 million price range.

Level A, for minimal safety improvements only, would purchase 1,500 seat aluminum bleachers plus required code or safety upgrades.

Level B, for basic stadium improvements only, was estimated at $1,00,001 to $2 million and would purchase 1,500- to 2,000-seat aluminum bleachers plus other basic improvements such as track re-surfacing, paving, drainage, handicapped access, restrooms, locker rooms, concessions or field upgrades.

Level C, for major stadium improvements, $2,00,001 to $4 million, would purchase 1,500- to 3,000-seat bleachers plus other improvements such as a new track, parking, drainage, lights, handicapped access, restrooms, locker rooms, concessions and field upgrade to artificial turf.

Level D, for tournament quality facilities and a price tag of $4 million to $6 million, would purchase 3,000-seat bleachers plus other requirements to qualify the stadium to host varsity playoff games.

Schulte noted these were only rough estimates, not based on any actual construction estimates or surveys.

He also suggested eight funding alternatives, in addition to the district’s general fund and fund balance, or reserve.

The alternatives were:

* Capital projects fund balance: The district expects to have $300,000 in this account after current projects are completed.

* Limited government obligation bonds (LGOs): The district can legally borrow up to about $5 million by selling these bonds, without voter approval. These bonds would be paid off from the district General Fund.

* Unlimited tax general obligation bonds (UTGO’s): Capital projects bonds which require a 60 percent voter approval. Paid off by collecting a property tax. State matching funds are not available for stadiums.

* Capital projects levy: Also requires voter approval. No bonds are sold, money comes directly from property tax levy as it is paid.

* Maintenance and operations levy (M&O levy): Also voter approved, but the district can’t propose another one until 2005.

* Sale of advertising: District is permitted to sell advertising space at a sports facility, but has never done so.

* Private donations: The district can accept private donations, and the Oak Harbor Education Foundation is available to accept donations for the district. Stadium plans could not be finalized until the amount of donations was determined.

* City or county contributions: There are examples of civic and school joint funding facilities in other areas, but it has not been done in Oak Harbor.

* In addition to these options, there is also the district general fund, and the fund balance, or reserve.

After discussing the choices among themselves, the participants shared their favored options. The 12 groups were pretty evenly split between options C and D, and many liked a bond levy and community donation combination for financing.

One table wanted “D or nothing,” with a $6 million price tag.

“Six million is not the Taj Mahal,” Gina Bull said, speaking for her group. They suggested $3 million in bonds, and $3 million in community donations, partially through the sale of fund-raising bricks, at $1,000 each.

“We’ve already sold five bricks,” Bull said, based on responses from her group.

Former school board member Don Johnson, who is a strong supporter of keeping the stadium at Memorial Field, liked option D for $4 million. He also suggested a higher level option E, with volunteer labor being used in lieu of cash.

With two more meetings to go, the team is a long way from consensus, but involving the community in the stadium decision seemed to be on everyone’s agenda.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611

Community Events, April 2014

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