Groups met this week to get construction moving

By Jay Hasting
Posted 4/26/07

Spanish Fort High School will not have a football stadium this fall, but if at all possible the school will have an athletic field for senior athletes to play on before they graduate.

The current plan would be to construct a baseball field that …

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Groups met this week to get construction moving


Spanish Fort High School will not have a football stadium this fall, but if at all possible the school will have an athletic field for senior athletes to play on before they graduate.

The current plan would be to construct a baseball field that would give the senior class an opportunity to host a home game before next spring.

Members of the Spanish Fort City Council, representatives from Spanish Fort High School and members of the Baldwin County School Board met Tuesday to discuss plans to get the construction of athletic fields at the school moving again. The delay seemed to be caused by a misunderstanding between the city and the school board. City leaders and representatives from the high school had anticipated seeing an overview of the entire project including all of the athletic facilities planed for the school. The Baldwin County School Board was apparently not on the same page.

Mike Keating, Director of Planning and Construction for Baldwin County Schools believed the project was to construct a football stadium on the site and deal with the other fields at a later date. Keating explained constructing a football stadium would take approximately 9 months. That would make completion early in 2008 and would not be the type of stadium school officials and city leaders had hoped. The School Boards plan would be to construct a 2,500 seat facility. City and School representatives were anticipating around 4,500 seats. Keating said, “We only have a $2 million budget, we will build what we can.”

The revelation over funding and timing has city leaders rethinking which facility to construct first. It now appears plans would be to construct a baseball field to have it available before the end of the 2008 school year. That would allow time for the city to search for alternate funding to complete the remainder of the athletic fields at the school, which would be approximately $6 million.

An obviously frustrated City Councilwoman Mary Brabner said, “We need a Master Plan, if we are to go and find more funding. I am a banker and I need to see things in black and white. I need numbers on a paper that I can evaluate. If the city is going to be responsible for paying for the bulk of this project I need to know how much money is needed, what has been paid for and what we still need to complete the project.

The city has already allocated $500,000 to the construction fund along with $500 thousand from the Baldwin County Commission, and a $1 million donation from Cypress Equities, the developers of the Spanish Fort Town Center. The Baldwin County School board provided the initial $1.5 million for construction of basic athletic facilities at the school.

Those basic facilities were a sore subject with Councilman Mike McMillan. “We were promised basic facilities and we did not get them,” McMillan said. “That was nothing more than a pie in the sky type of promise.”

The Councilman was referring to the original funding negotiations with the School Board which led to the $1.5 million contribution to the project. McMillan felt the basic facilities promised should have included the restrooms, fencing, and the field. McMillan said, “It aggravates me to death that we don’t get what we were promised.”

Keating and Baldwin County School Board Vice President Tracy Roberts did not comment on McMillan’s remarks.

Roberts, who represents the 7th district including Spanish Fort, did not have any positive words for the quest for additional funding for the project. She felt the school board would not be open to providing anymore money. “The School Board is focusing on building classrooms, not athletic fields at this time. I would not expect any additional funds from the School Board,” said Roberts.

Keating agreed to try and move the project forward by have a Master Plan developed for Brabner and the City Council to see if the city would be willing to pay for the work which he estimated would be $360,000.

Mayor Joe Bonner said, “The money is already in the bank. It can be paid for with the funds we have already allocated to the project. I just want to get something done,” Bonner said. “We need to show these students we are taking some positive steps.”

Mike Lucci, the Principal at Spanish Fort High School said he believed the process was finally moving in the right direction.

“I am encouraged. I think we have finally broken the log jam and it looks like it is going to happen.” Lucci said, “I am excited about the fact that the senior class at my school may have a venue to do some things next spring.”

The Principal realizes the delay may payoff in the future. Lucci said, “It has come to the point where it does not make too much difference. We are able to do our own thing. We have demonstrated that for two years. We have a gypsy football team that goes from place to place. We have huge support from the community. We have a baseball that is in the state playoffs. We can do that for as long as it takes. From the schools perspective, this thing needs to run out as long as it needs to run out to get what the children deserve and they don’t have that now.”