Stadium carries $3.9M price tag

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &8212; School and community leaders believe it is time the Tigers football program had a home stadium representative of their recent successes.

Local attorney Woody Dinning last week gave a detailed report to the city council outlining nearly a year&8217;s worth of work on a proposal to build a new football stadium and renovate the current field on Cedar Street.

The project began last November when school officials asked the city to assist in financing a 20-year bond to build the new stadium. At that meeting, city officials asked for more details about how the current facility could be better utilized and what options would exist in building a new stadium.

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Since then, an impromptu group of school supports &8212; including Dinning, Chuck Smith, Bobby Armstead, Mike Randall, John Northcutt and others &8212; have worked with architects and the city to detail the plan.

The committee asked an architect to estimate the cost of the two plans. The renovation plan came in at $4.2 million. The construction of a new stadium was $300,000 cheaper at $3.9 million.

Dinning explained that the renovation project would require the construction of duplicate facilities at the high school.

The proposal put forth by the committee is to renovate the current facility for use by the junior varsity and middle school teams as well as recreational teams. New facilities at the high school would include a stadium, practice field, field house and concessions. The practice field would be wide enough to double as a soccer field and would include a track for future athletic programs.

Dr. Isaac Espy, principal as Demopolis High School, said he has not focused yet on the details of the proposal but believes that the school needs additional facilities.

Dinning and Espy both agree that the new facilities must be weighed against the need for classrooms at the high school and elementary schools were overcrowding is starting to become an issue. But both men said the school board have adequately planned for future growth and have expansions in mind in the future.

Espy said the school has models that project enrollments based on current class sizes.

Building a new stadium and expanding classrooms are both viable projects that can be undertaken simultaneously, both men said.

Last year, the school district committed $100,000 in seed money for the project and $100,000 annually for 20 years to service any debt. The citizens committee and the school district are now asking the city to help offset annual bond payments for the project.

Dinning said the bond issue would require approximately $300,000 annually to service the debt.

If public funds cannot be found to cover the entire annual debt service, Dinning said the school system would be forced to look for private investments.

The ultimate decision to move ahead with any project will rest with the school board, which has not addressed the proposals.