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School board considers alternate location for athletic complex

Assistant softball coach Dana Sullivan addresses the school board concerning an alternate location for the proposed sports complex on Monday. (Press photo James Grob.)
Assistant softball coach Dana Sullivan addresses the school board concerning an alternate location for the proposed sports complex on Monday. (Press photo James Grob.)
By James Grob,

The Charles City Community School District Board of Education was presented Monday with a possible alternative location for the school’s proposed softball and baseball athletic complex — and it’s right in their backyard.

Head varsity softball coach Brian Bohlen and assistant coach Dana Sullivan presented the board with the new possible location, located on land adjacent to the high school and middle school, along Comet Drive.

The softball field would be located between the high school parking lot and the high school football field — at the location of the football practice field — while the baseball diamond would be cupped inside the Comet Drive curve on the way to the transportation center.

“This is something the board needs to at least be aware of, because we have a responsibility to look at things that may have some financial advantages, as well as falling within our core values,” said Charles City superintendent Mike Fisher. “We evaluated all kinds of alternatives, because I think we have a job to do what’s best fiscally and what’s best for our kids, and this was one option that came up time and time again.”

Sullivan talked to the board members at length about potential sites.

“As a school district, we have to live within our means, and this is within our means,” she said of the proposed high school site.

Currently, the diamonds at Sportsmen’s Park are the home of Charles City High School’s baseball and softball teams. According to the school district, more than 200 home baseball and softball games (at all levels) have either been canceled or moved to an away location in the last eight years because of regular flooding of the fields.

“Throughout the years, the floodplain has increased,” said Charles City Activity Director Todd Forsyth. “The soil has changed due to the repeated flooding. It’s just going to continue to get worse.”

In April 2017, the Charles City School District purchased 20 acres along Shadow Avenue, north of Sportsmen’s Park and outside of the floodplain, for a new sports complex. The site is just north of Washington Elementary School.

Since that time, a committee of coaches, directors and local business leaders has been raising funds through pledges, donations and grants to build the complex. The proposed project is for the construction of one natural grass softball field and one synthetic turf baseball infield with a natural grass baseball outfield and a parking lot.

As of March 18, the sports complex website reported raising more than $700,000. The Charles City Community School District has agreed to make a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution for the first $500,000 raised.

The total cost at the Shadow Avenue location is estimated at $1.5 million, while the total cost at the high school location is estimated at $1.7 million — a difference of $200,000 — but Sullivan said the location by the school would be a more finished product, and would likely be able to be in use at an earlier date.

“It does not include dugouts, restrooms, a concession stand, bleachers or concrete of any sort,” Sullivan said of the Shadow Avenue location. “It’s a pretty minimal approach, but it gets us two ballfields.”

The high school location, on the other hand, would include dugouts, fencing and bleachers with the two fields. Sullivan said that neither location has lights in the budget, but Fisher said that the district is looking into the possibility of a lease-option for lighting with Musco.

Sullivan said that the Shadow Avenue site was 3-5 years away from becoming a finished project, while there is a possibility that teams could be playing ball at the high school location as early as 2020.

“I can’t support it if it’s not a completed project,” said Bohlen. “Nobody wants to wait three more years. Nobody wants to drag this out. We don’t have the energy.”

The issue was discussed for well over an hour, with other coaches, parents and student-players all voicing their opinions. The board decided to hold a work session on the issue this week and take the matter up again at the next meeting, which is scheduled for next Monday, March 25.

“I don’t want to do the bare minimum,” Bohlen said. “I want these kids to take pride in those diamonds. We cannot build the newest, worst diamonds in the state of Iowa.”