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City Commission gives architect green light on $2.1 million Science Hill field house

January 17th, 2014 1:48 pm by Gary B. Gray

City Commission gives architect green light on $2.1 million Science Hill field house


Science Hill High School athletes and students will soon benefit from a new 12,600-square-foot field house that could come into view after the 2015 football season.


City commissioners gave architect Tony Street the go-ahead Thursday to complete the design of the maroon and gold structure and to handle the bidding phase of the project. The $2.1 million state-of-the-art facility will be positioned at the southeast corner of Kermit Tipton Stadium facing the football field. 


The Johnson City Board of Education has requested additional masonry be added to the exterior, which is comprised mainly of steel. Should that alternative be chosen, the price tag would rise by about $70,000.   


The one-story field house comes complete with team room, 100-locker area, junior varsity room, coaches’ offices, equipment room, weight room and facilities for both boys and girls athletes.


“One of the real advantages of this facility is the weight-training area,” Commissioner Jenny Brock said. “This will be such an enhancement that also is adding an instruction component.”


City Manager Pete Peterson said the contract could be awarded next fall.


An item of concern for both Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin and Commissioner Jeff Banyas was that the design did not include provisions that allowed usable space for javelin, shot put and discus and hammer throw.


“I’m a little disappointed that we’re now building a field house that’s going to impact a nearby field, which in turn will not allow us to have all the track and field events at the facility,” Van Brocklin said. 


Banyas said he was concerned “from an economic standpoint” about the city’s ability to attract major track and field events, and he asked Peterson to address this concern.


Peterson explained that there is little room to hold the events on green space near the field house that would not over time deteriorate the land. He said he had talked with East Tennessee State University President Brian Noland and that he and other university officials have said they would be OK with holding these specific events on the university campus.


Van Brocklin and Banyas did not appear satisfied with that option. Instead, their concerns were that when the stadium originally was designed, it was understood that the city would solicit major, college-level track and field events. 


Disappointment, however, did not stop commissioners from launching the project, though Peterson was asked to examine possibilities for keeping these events at the stadium.


On Dec. 11, commissioners met in a capital improvements workshop, and at the time they appeared very close to sealing the deal. But there was a matter of money, in that Peterson was to meet with Athletic Director Keith Turner to see if ticket and parking prices could be raised in order to help pay the debt service on the money being borrowed to build the facility.


That conversation never came up on Thursday.


“This is another example of a private and public partnership,” Brock said. “In this case, private donations will be paying the debt service on this.”


Johnson City Schools contributed $400,000 toward the project, and a fundraising campaign has brought in $450,000, meaning $850,000 is available. The city receives another $60,000 a year from scoreboard advertising, which will be used as well. And there still is $175,000 in outstanding pledges, which brings the total to nearly $1.1 million without the city incurring any debt. However, commissioners have agreed to a deal in which the city will borrow about $1.2 million, which with the other funds will cover the cost of the facility.


This doesn’t mean fundraising efforts have ended. The “Take it to the Top” campaign, originally formed to raise money for an expanded field house, has garnered some healthy donations, but it will continue its capital campaign throughout the process, including a search for donations that come with naming rights. 


Commissioners on Thursday also approved the official logo featuring The Tweetsie Trail. Dr. Dan Schumaier, the project’s task force chairman, said the logo will be copyrighted and a $500 trademark fee will be paid.


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