January 17, 2017
The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was atop the charts, the first Ford Mustang came off the assembly line in Detroit and the nation was still recovering from President Kennedy being shot just months earlier the last time a significant investment was made in the Carroll Athletic Field in 1964.
That’s 53 years ago.
What sort of condition would your home be in if you didn’t update anything for 53 years? What would the roof look like? Would there even be a roof? And would you be inclined to invite guests over 20 to 30 times each year?
That’s essentially what’s happening on a regular basis at Carroll Athletic Field.
So there is an urgency behind our full-throated support of the Feb. 7 physical plant and equipment levy in the Carroll Community School District. Bottom line: this $4.45 million levy will cost the average homeowner $44.30 annually over 10 years.
Business-owning entrepreneurs from other towns, potential nurses and welders and other key employees — all assets to a growing community — come here as spectators, bringing their sons and daughters (and grandparents and aunts and uncles, too) to Carroll High School and Kuemper Catholic High School football games and track meets (and if this vote clears 50 percent, soccer and other events down the road).
Visitors to our stadium leave with an impression of the entire community just as we do when we attend road games.
Incomplete or unfair as the judgments may be, we often make them on limited exposure to a city — a ballgame here, a dinner there, someone we know who works in that town.
Because of the dilapidated, unsightly and increasingly unsafe stadium those visitors’ impressions usually aren’t positive for Carroll.
“When I tour Carroll with potential employees, doctors and executives I show them our wonderful amenities in Graham Park, the Aquatic Center, Des Moines Area Community College’s campus and the Recreation Center,” said John Munson, chief financial officer at St. Anthony Regional Hospital. “But I drive past that stadium as quickly as possible. It’s just not consistent with our other amenities.”
Contrast that with how the Carroll Recreation Center served as a statewide lure a generation ago.
During a recent meeting in Washington, D.C., with Carroll County leaders, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, our former two-term governor, talked of new markets for commodities and livestock — and gave us a road map for increasing opportunities for producers, not just think-tank gibberish, the daydreams of cubicled bureaucrats.
But Vilsack, the former mayor of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, seemed most engaged with Carroll’s economic-development leaders when talking about how one small city in Iowa — Carroll — could hoist its image to top tier with a superior recreation center.
Vilsack visited our Recreation Center a quarter century ago as a young city official from the southeast part of Iowa. That inspiring tour to this day frames the way one of the more powerful men in our government views Carroll.
Imagine if a future governor from Harlan or Winterset or somewhere else in Iowa were to have her first experiences in Carroll at our current stadium. No so good.
Let’s tick off the problems. And there are many.
— The track is eight years past its 15-year lifespan.
— The surface is now littered with cracks and hazards making it unfit for competition.
— The bleachers and under-structure are crumbling and will need constant, expensive upkeep and maintenance just to remain accident- or disaster-proof.
— And then there are the restrooms. If you’ve been at the stadium and had the unfortunate need to use one, we need not impose an argument here.
The need for a new facility was recognized in 2011, but ultimately the can was kicked down the road. Well, we’re at the end of the road.
“I hope people understand that this is a bare-bones project,” Stadium Committee Co-chair Chad Ross said. “There are not a bunch of extras and frills.”
Doing nothing is just not an option, and construction costs rise annually, noted Stadium Committee Co-chair Jair Mayhall.
The Carroll Community School Board has been clear that both the field and track will be open from dawn until dusk for the public to use, something not allowed at the current stadium because of grass-field wear-and-tear concerns.
When not being used for official school events, children and adults would be welcome to use the track and turf field to play Frisbee, football or otherwise exercise to their heart’s content.
“That would be the ideal situation,” Stadium Committee member Greg Perkins said of the turf, which has a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years.
Carroll is a community that values hard work and sacrifice on the path to obtain success.
No shortcuts needed.
The sacrifice required to make the Carroll Athletic Field and the teams that play there successes for years to come is minor, when we all lift it together.
Build this new stadium and watch Carroll’s reputation around the state as a first-rate place to live and do business and raise families get even better.
A “Yes” on Feb. 7 is a vote for Carroll, its children and our future.