Committee favors high school as site for potential sports complex
By Adam Hocking
MARSHIFELD — With much still to be decided, including whether or not a multisport complex is affordable, an ad hoc committee charged with evaluating options for the school district’s athletic facilities favors Marshfield High School as a potential site for such a complex.
The committee met Monday night with representatives of Rettler Corporation, a landscape architecture firm the district has contracted with to evaluate options for athletic facility improvements. Rettler presented several scenarios where a multisport complex, practice fields, and other athletic facilities could be built at the Marshfield Middle School, High School, or Madison Elementary.
Rettler placed items such as a 4,000-seat multisport complex and practice fields on a digital map of the three sites to give the committee an idea of the space and constraints at each location. The high school appeared to offer the most space for a variety of athletic facilities.
The district’s Director of Business Services Pat Saucerman, who is also a committee member, said the committee gave Rettler “direction to come back with more specific concept designs related to a sports complex in the proximity of the high school campus.” There is not yet a cost estimate as to what such facility might cost.
“The work of the committee will ultimately lead to a recommendation to the Buildings & Grounds Committee, who will in turn discuss and eventually recommend to the full board. I mention this because as we discuss things like seating capacity and other somewhat detailed issues, it is very possible these things could change once the school board has had a chance to consider,” Saucerman wrote in an email to local media.
Responding to a survey administered by the district, community members ranked the middle school’s running track as their top priority in terms of athletic facilities at the high school and/or middle school in need of improvement. The track was followed on that priority list by practice fields, parking accommodations, and a larger fitness and weight room.
In a conceptual layout, Rettler showed a potential multisport complex just east of the high school with the potential for more athletic facilities to the north of the building, where current practice fields are. In addition to the high school having more space to potentially add athletic facilities, the committee liked the logistics of not having to bus high school athletes to the middle school for sporting events.
The district’s Director of Building and Grounds Ron Sturomski said his chief concern with construction of athletic facilities at the middle school site would be safety with tight parking quarters and several buses trying to navigate the area.
“Depending on the football team, it might be two buses, then our buses, then the band buses, then their spectator buses at times,” Sturomski said. “It’s a lot to try to pack in there.”
Saucerman said a multisport complex could allow soccer, football, and track to take place all at the same site. Once cost estimates for facility improvements begin to take shape, the district will have a better idea of what is truly achievable. He added that the multisport complex would present new opportunities for the district.
“We’re not looking at this — I don’t think — exclusively for (the) Marshfield football team or Marshfield soccer,” Saucerman said. “There’s an opportunity here to potentially host different types of regional events.”
Saucerman added, “This would be something that would probably open more doors for different kinds of hosting of bigger type events.” He noted that the middle school has not hosted a track event in three years.
School board and committee member Amber Leifheit expressed concern over the potential plans for a new multisport complex.
“My big question through the whole process is how are we going to pay for it?” Leifheit said. “I know the need is there, but my priority is programs.”
“We have to take care of our basics first. And so if we’re going to go to the community and ask for operational dollars, I want to know how we’re going to pay for this (new athletic facilities),” Leifheit said, referencing that the district’s funds from the current referendum will expire at the end of next school year, and a potential new referendum could appear on the November 2016 election ballot.
She said if cost was not an issue, the high school is the best site for any potential development of new athletic facilities. When asked if she felt her opinion was the minority view on the committee, Leifheit said “yes.”
Rettler will present to the full school board at next Wednesday’s meeting recapping what was discussed during the committee meeting. The next committee meeting is not set yet.