By Reagan Hoverman
SPRING VALLEY – At the Monday night, June 20, Spring Valley School Board meeting, the board unanimously adopted a 20-year plan for a future athletic complex and asked the superintendent to prepare a formal recommendation to the board that includes how to proceed further, including potential funding options for the facility, informing the community, timelines and other aspects of the potential project.
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The adoption of the 20-year plan by the board is simply an approval of the preliminary outlines of the potential future project which includes three total phases and a complete revamp of the athletic facilities in Spring Valley – both downtown and near the high school.
The 20-year project means that not all of the updates will happen at once – if at all, depending on voting – and will be spaced out accordingly over as much as 20 years. It’s being framed as a long-term investment, not a short-term fix that will place a heavy burden on taxpayers.
It’s important to note that the school board and the community as a whole don’t have to approve the project in its entirety. Chunks could be sectioned ou if some aspects are determined to be more important or more urgently needed than others and certainly can be adjusted based on the cost of the phases of the project.
The Monday night approval of more preliminary research includes a lot of small information that needs to be gathered by professionals to determine if the project is even feasible as proposed. The approval by the board instructs District Administrator John Groh to begin gathering the necessary information.
That gathering process includes some of the aforementioned tasks such as how to pay for the potential overall plan, how to inform the community and gain support, how to develop a fundraising plan and leadership team, conducting a community survey to gauge interest, how to develop a timeline that aligns with budgetary goals and conducting necessary land and soil surveys.
Once Groh has accumulated that information, he will present it to the school board, likely at the July meeting, and they will again decide if the project should continue moving forward. Nothing earth-shattering – literally and figuratively has happened yet. These are extremely preliminary steps that the board has taken regarding a future athletic complex.
The plan includes three distinct phases. The first phase is a football stadium encircled by a track and field complex. As proposed, it would be built right outside the high school and would have a field composed of artificial turf, not grass. The first phase would cost ap proximately $7 million for the full section of that project.
Phase two of the 20-year plan would be a new baseball and softball field located near where the new football stadium and track would be. The baseball and softball fields would be part of that larger sports complex, which would be the main attractions of phases one and two.
The third and final phase of the project would be renovating the current downtown fields, installing tennis courts and essentially modernizing and expanding the current complex downtown. That would include remov- ing the football field and smelting tower and installing modern little league fields for both school and community use.
The larger Spring Valley community has had ample opportunities to provide input on the project. One of those opportunities was at the Spring Valley Steering Committee meeting on Wednesday, June 15, at the high school.
At that meeting, community members, students, stau and any other interested par – ty could provide valuable feedback to the committee. One of those people was Jeremy Johnson, a father of a student-athlete at Spring Valley. At the committee meeting, he provided feedback on the plan and expressed his support for a future athletic complex.
"This is my first time seeing any of this and my first impression is that I like it a lot," Johnson said of the plans. “I’m very impressed with the layout.”
Johnson spoke of two concerns, the first of which was parking and the second was land quality or potential unseen issues. Spring Valley athletic director Matt Ducklow stated that parking is more abundant near the high school compared to the current downtown site.
Groh addressed the land concern, stating that there have been no indications from the engineering company that the site could be compromised in any way. Of course, more advanced land samples – which is part of the approved motion – would provide more insight into that question.
Later in the meeting, Jeremy Johnson’s daughter, Tyra Johnson, provided some insight from the eyes of a student-athlete at Spring Valley. She is a junior who just completed a season with the varsity softball team.
“I hear so much (from other students) that we need a track, we need a track," Tyra John son said. “There has been a lot of complaining because they went to Glenwood to prac- tice. I feel like our kids deserve what every other community has around here.”
Ducklow quickly chimed in, stating that the track and field team went to multiple dif ferent high schools to practice. Glenwood City, Durand and Baldwin-Woodville are all places the Cardinals' track team traveled to just to practice at a legitimate facility for a day.
Also attending the Wednesday night Steering Committee meeting was Spring Valley teacher and girls' basketball and girls' head track and field coach Sean Hoolihan. At the meeting, he provided his thoughts on framing the information and the need for new facilities.
"I know a lot of people will see all of the phases and think it's too much and won't want it to happen,” Hoolihan said. “This has
happened in our community twice. We’ve had the opportunity to possibly get a track and it hasn’t even been brought to the com- munity twice. I think our kids deserve a track – just being blunt about this.”
Throughout many meetings before the aforementioned June 15 gathering, the committee had come to what was essentially a unanimous consensus regarding the phasing of the project. Phase one, deemed to be the most important, is the football stadium encir- cled by a track and field facility. AD Duck –
low spoke about that process.
“We put this as number one on our list. For us, it’s tough having a multi-baseball/football field complex, there aren't many of those left in the state," Ducklow said. "We also don't have a track. We felt as a committee that those two things are by far our top priority and what we wanted to focus on the most.”
Throughout the Wednesday evening meeting, Groh read comments submitted online, nearly all of which spoke out in support of the proposed plan and the need for new facilities. Those comments were put into an online forum where the school board could easily access them ahead of the Monday evening meeting.
At the Monday evening meeting, Spring Valley School Board Vice President Jenelle Wolf spoke openly about her support for the facility.
"The primary phase one of the track and football complex, this isn’t just an athletic facility, it’s something our whole district can use. It will enhance the whole community,” Wolf said. “People were very supportive at the meeting. I would hate to see this stall out now without seeing the next step and seeing if it's financially feasible for this community to support this. I’m excited about it.”
Board member Dan Stasiek was the next to provide input on the plans for the complex. He reminded the board members and audience that this is still preliminary action and that the next stages are likely those surveys to determine feasibility.
There were two standout portions of the plan that made Stasiek a supporter of the plan. Under the current proposal, no student-athlete would be displaced for any amount of time because of potential construction on the project.
Because of the way that the district is sit- uated with fields and sports, all student ath letics would remain on schedule and non-displaced, even at the height of the construction. The second aspect is the artificial turf, which will be able to accommodate more than 10 times the number of events that grass fields can.
According to preliminary research, grass fields can sustainably support approximately 70 events per year without seeing an erosion of the field. Turf fields can sustain approx imately 800 events before similar mainte- nance is required. A cost:benefit ratio of more than 8:1. Stasiek also spoke in support of a track facility.
“The discrepancy in those numbers is un- believably good," Stasiek said. "It's about the track. The students have desired a track for many years. They’ve had good teams and we owe it to them to at least move forward and make an attempt to move forward." Board treasurer Sandy Jacobs posed a question about funding and specifically asked about fundraising, a referendum, or both.
“Can we fundraise it? I’d much rather see fundraising compared to a referendum because we’ve already had one for the elementary school because it gives some people anxiety,” Jacobs said. “It gives me anxiety.”
Stasiek quickly chimed in stating that those feelings are understandable and that it’s important to remember that it’s a 20-year plan. After he was done speaking, Wolf ad dressed the fundraising question.
"I don't know that we can do it on fund raising alone, a community our size,” Wolf said. “Some of the bigger communities have those corporate sponsors. We could absolute- ly get some of that, but I don't think that we could fundraise this facility alone.”
After the discussion concluded, the board voted on the motion and passed it unanimously. The next step is for Groh to compile additional information for the board. That process is likely to happen throughout the next month and then be presented at the July board meeting.