City Commission to consider SHHS field house plan

Gary B. Gray • Jan 16, 2014 at 1:02 PM

Plans for a new field house at Science Hill High School have been on and off the table many times over the past three years.

Proper and affordable designs, as well as identifiable funding sources, have been on and off the table many times. However, city commissioners are expected to take action tonight after reviewing a presentation revealing specific structural plans and financing possibilities.

On Dec. 11, commissioners met in a capital improvements workshop, and at that time they appeared very close to a plan in which the city would issue debt to build the new structure — a $2 million one-story, red brick, 12,000-square-foot field house complete with team room, 100-locker area, junior varsity room, coaches offices, equipment room, weight room and facilities for both boys and girl athletes.

But there was a major caveat to that possibility: The city would need to be assured that new revenues could appear from increases in parking or tickets prices and that the “Take it to the Top” campaign, formed to raise money for an expanded field house, would need to do its part.

City Manager Pete Peterson said at that time he would talk with SHHS Athletic Director Keith Turner about small increases, but it’s not known at this point what proposals might be in the works.

The campaign has collected commitments of about $450,000. And in sum, the city knows it has roughly $850,000 on hand. Commissioners seem willing to borrow about $1.2 million to help pay for the facility now, but they do want new revenue streams generated to help them make the debt payments.

A second option that has been considered is a $1.7 million version with the junior varsity facilities removed.

Science Hill’s first home football game at the new Kermit Tipton Stadium was in September 2010.

Months before that game, a small field house included in the stadium contract with Kingsport’s GoinsRashCain was built on the visitors’ side of the field. When it was originally designed, there were plans to expand it — possibly to a two-story structure. But limited funds forced the city to live within its means with the intention of adding a larger field house at a later date.

A July 30 post — the most recent — on the Take It To The Top Facebook page said, “Members of the field house fundraising committee met yesterday with architect, Tony Street, to locate, design and build our new Topper field house. Step one — where to put it at Kermit Tipton Stadium? Next, designing a great facility — stay tuned!”

That was six months ago.

Commissioners also will consider an amending the contract for architectural services on the new Farmers Market project. The additional services, which will cost the city about $36,000, include geotechnical exploration, survey and site design. Foundation Systems Engineering would provide geotechnical services; Tysinger, Hampton and Partners would provide the other services.

Architect Thomas Weems is providing his services at the City Commission’s request.

“Demolition of the site has been performed as part of the Founders Park project,” Weems said. “Our firm has performed geotechnical work in this area and is familiar with the local subsurface conditions”

Weems is recommending four additional soil test borings on the site where the new structure will be built, as well as two tests in the newly paved areas.

Commissioners have approved a $35,000 contract with Weems Architect to design the proposed downtown Farmers Market. The market will be located just across Wilson Avenue, a few steps north of the new Founders Park.

Preliminary drawings show Wilson Avenue transformed into a bicycle and pedestrian path. A drive-thru is planned for the market’s south side as well as canopy-covered parking for 60. The city plans to add 25 spaces for overflow and an additional 50 spaces will be constructed on Commerce Street.

Commissioners also will review the final artwork which could become the Tweetsie Trail logo. No further information about the logo was available Wednesday.

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