Architects go forward with stadium plans

COVINGTON - Newton County Board of Education members have a lot of decisions to make concerning Sharp Stadium.

Architects from Cunningham, Forehand, Matthews & Moore, who are working on repairs and additions at the stadium, presented several options to the school board during its December meeting on what they could do with the rest of their SPLOST-funded project.

In November, board members gave the architects a go ahead for the new field house, which is expected to cost between $750,000 to $800,000.

The architects said the board should have enough left over in the SPLOST fund to complete another project at the stadium, but not all of the ones they wanted to complete - replacing the visitors stands, adding more parking spaces or adding an artificial turf field.

Architect Ray Moore said if the board members want to replace or repair the visitors' stands, they basically have three options - replace some of the damaged concrete floor and replace all of the seating, build new seating over the current flooring, or start over completely. The repairs could cost between $150,000 and $500,000, depending on the amount of labor and seating.

He said portions of the concrete flooring need repair, but most of it could last a while longer without needing any repairs.

Also, he said seating is likely to be aluminum bench-style with no backing, which costs about $200 per seat.

The space and money available has room for 2,000 seats, but board members discussed the possibility of installing fewer seating areas in exchange for some more repair and grading work.

"I don't know if we need 2,000 seats on that side," said board member Cathy Dobbs. "I want to spend the money the best way we can."

Board member Johnny Smith said if the stadium wants to qualify for AAAAA state seating requirements in football, they need to talk about adding more seats to that area; currently, the visitors' side of the stadium seats about 1,600.

Moore also presented the board with more information about a new artificial turf field they discussed at the November meeting.

Artificial turf is like soft carpet and is very flexible, often preventing serious knee injuries and foot problems that can happen on a grass field, Moore said.

It also has a drainage system installed with it and allows players to wear any type of shoes while on it. The field may need servicing every year, but it's fairly durable, he said.

Moore said the cost of the field could cost just less than $600,000.

The board needs to make a decision on the next step of the stadium additions by January or February in order to have the work completed by the fall, Moore said. The board meets again in January for its monthly meeting.

"We have three high schools using that field, and with the way money is right now, we're not going to be able to build a new stadium for a while," Dobbs said. "I'd like to see us get everything done."

Newton County School Superintendent Steven Whatley reminded the public that although the system is operating under a tight budget due to state budget cuts and less tax money coming through, this stadium project is a SPLOST-funded one that the citizens voted on - the school system cannot use those funds for other projects not approved in the SPLOST referendum and is required by state law to complete them.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.