October 22, 2013



CARROLL

The Carroll Community School District hopes to address the rundown state of its football stadium, but it needs direction from the community said board members at Monday night's meeting.

Carroll residents in attendance picked up the ball, agreeing to coordinate meetings between both the Carroll and Kuemper Catholic School System booster clubs, and to contact members of the last stadium committee to gauge interest in reviving the issue.

"What I'm asking the community is, what do they want to do with the football field?" said board president Kim Tiefenthaler. "As everybody knows, it sure hasn't gotten any better shape-wise and it's only deteriorating more."

He reminded the crowd attending the meeting that the board had worked with a committee to put a stadium plan on the ballot two years ago. A $1 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation physical plant and equipment levy was soundly defeated 1,663-802 in the September 2011 school election. Tiefenthaler said the board would not put forth that effort again if the community wasn't interested.

"If people are interested, I'm all for that, but we're not going to spin our wheels again," he said. "And you've got to come up with how you want to pay for it."

Located at Grant Road and Eighth Street, the Carroll Athletic Field stadium was built in 1964. It is in a complex with Carroll Baseball Stadium and softball fields, Carroll Family Aquatic Center, Carroll Recreation Center, Graham Park and Des Moines Area Community College.

The stadium committee had cited a laundry list of problems with the stadium - rusted bleachers with holes, a cracking and crumbling foundation, restrooms, concession stands, unusable locker rooms and showers, inadequate and unacceptable storage space, a track at least five years past its expected lifespan with a cracking foundation, and inefficient lighting and plumbing.

Jeff Blankman suggested that people within the community were "starting to come around" and recognize the need, based on conversations he has had throughout town. Brian White agreed, adding that Carroll was home to "two premier schools" and should not have such a poor stadium to show for itself.

"We're wanting to move forward. We want some sort of plan," said Carroll Tiger Booster Club president Chad Jensen. "We need a plan, and we're here to empower you."

Funding options for such a project include a bond issue, a levy or the use of sales-tax revenue. Tiefenthaler does not like the idea of using the sales-tax revenue, saying that individuals accused the board of passing the sales-tax option to build a football field. Sales-tax revenue is to be used for building and grounds expenses, technology and vehicle purchases.

School district superintendent Rob Cordes said a physical plant and equipment levy would be more likely than a bond issue. A levy requires 50 percent plus one vote, while a bond issue requires a 60 percent majority. Also, bonding out the stadium costs would tie up funds that will be needed for roof repairs, new carpeting, and technology upgrades over the next several years.

"You talk about aesthetics, the rooms and carpets and stuff, well you walk into the restrooms down there," said Chad Ross. "At what point do you say, 'Boy, we need to put some money into this thing'? Even if we don't do the artificial surface, and even if we don't do all the grandiose whatever it might be, at some point we need to maintain this with some dollars."

Tiefenthaler agreed, saying that no business in town would have bathrooms like those available at the stadium. Cordes said that logic wasn't enough.

"You feel that way, the board feels that way, I feel that way, but there are people out there will say 'Go to hell,'" said Cordes. "There's a fraction of the community that doesn't want it. That was very evident, and those are the folks that go to the polls."

Board member Duane Horsley suggested that the timing might have affected the first referendum's success, with the vote following on the heels of a library-expansion referendum that was also soundly defeated. Emotions were "stirred up," and people didn't want to pay for anything, he suggested.

Cordes said that climate was par for the course, stating that any new stadium issue will "go down in flames" if young parents don't vote.

"Your no votes are going to always be there," agreed Carroll school district business manager Gary Bengtson. "You're not going to change their minds. The only way you're going to pass it is you've got to have more yes votes."

According to Cordes, previous calculations suggested that 3,000 yes votes would be required to pass such a referendum, and the votes are there if somebody can get the 22- to 40-year-old demographic registered and to the polls.

Bengtson and Tiefenthaler said that the board could probably find money in its budget to tear down the current bleachers, but they would be replaced with a set of bleachers similar to those located at the softball field, and there would not be a concessions under the stands. However, the original committee did not want that outcome, nor were they receptive to the possibility of having only one home side, Cordes added.

Probable costs of the committee's construction project recommendations totaled more than $5 million, including $1,750,000 for stadium structures like concessions and restrooms, site costs for demolition and grading, artificial turf, I-beam style bleacher seating for 3,600 people plus a press box, an eight-lane track surface, football-field lighting, contingency, and soft costs, including fees, printing and soil testing.

Jensen described the first stadium renovation plan as "pretty grand," perhaps "too big" and asked if there was a way to phase in changes so the board wouldn't need to spend all of the money at once.

Bengtson said that stadium changes could be made over a period of years, but it would be more expensive and it would leave the field torn up for multiple seasons. He also reminded attendees that stands like those in the current stadium are too expensive to build in today's economy; the stadium would likely have aluminum-style bleachers, and something would need to be done to "dress up" the back side.

With Kuemper's recent announcement that it would not pursue plans for its own stadium, Carroll board members encouraged members of the two booster clubs to work together. Cordes said that any request for funding could be seen as "self-serving" if led by administrators, and stressed the need for parents and community members to lead any stadium campaign.

It is a sentiment Jeanette Bender understands.

"If we don't do something, we will have nothing," she said. "I have a first-grader, and I bet my first-grader won't be using that stadium as it is now."