• December 18, 2014

S’more ideas needed to improve KISD facilities

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Posted: Sunday, April 28, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 4:30 am, Sun Apr 28, 2013.

If you bring the marshmallows, I’ll make sure to remember the graham crackers and chocolate.

The tents?

Those will be provided by the Killeen Independent School District.

KISD’s plans to spend $330,000 on locker rooms for athletes at the Hood Stadium Complex were put on hold Tuesday after concerns were raised over whether or not the project will be completed before scheduled events take place such as Freedom Fest in July and then the high school season beginning in late August.

Board members mulled alternatives, from changing the date of games and hosting them at KISD’s Leo Buckley Stadium, to having athletes dress out in tents — yes, someone actually mentioned tents — or off-site facilities if the additions were not complete.

Originally, the school district’s two areas of concerns — public access to the on-post facility and spectator seating on only one side of the field — were largely non-issues when the stadium opened in October.

But apparently someone forgot about the locker rooms.

When the Belton Tigers played at Hood Stadium in October, they dressed out in a storage shed.

Why? Because Hood Stadium is not a football stadium. Not really.

The field is great for intramural football, as well as annual events, including Freedom Fest, Month of the Military Child, Earth Fest and other concerts and carnivals.

But not 5A football.

Heck, even 2A schools Florence and Salado have nicer dressing rooms. That means to say they have them.

The new $13.5 million facility was built to replace Prichard Stadium, which was opened in 1951 and torn down to make room for the new $500 million Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center.

Now, $13.5 million is not cheap by any means, but for a brand-spanking new 5A football stadium these days it simply does not get it done.

Allen opened its $60 million stadium this fall. Mansfield ISD opened Vernon Newsom Stadium, which was built by Huckabee, Inc — the same company that built KISD’s Career Center — in 2006 at a cost of $29.8 million.

Vernon Newsom was the second stadium for Mansfield’s five schools.

But the problem is not just money.

It never is when red tape from not one but two entities is involved.

Half of the KISD student population has a direct connection to Fort Hood in some form or fashion.

So, locker rooms or not, KISD set out to forge a partnership that allows the district to host two home games on Friday nights instead of Thursday night or Saturday afternoon games.

KISD has been looking to get out of playing Thursday games the last several years. The district wanted to let the students have more time to study, and also solve the issue of truancy the next day.

Hood Stadium is an option, just not a very good one.

Mostly because KISD is not looking to invest in something it doesn’t even own.

Killeen Deputy Superintendent John Craft told Killeen school board members Tuesday that the district needs to approve a lease with Fort Hood before it can start the $330,000 addition to the stadium. Currently, the district only has a “memorandum of understanding” with Fort Hood, which allows it to use the 5,500-seat facility for games.

However, the Texas Education Code states that school districts cannot spend funds for the design, construction or renovation of improvements to property that they do not own or lease.

What else could KISD do with $330,000?

Replacing the turf at Leo Buckley Stadium, the stadium all four schools still consider their home field, cost the district about $329,000, last year.

The old turf was two years past its warranty date.

Killeen Director of Athletics Tom Rogers estimated last year that it would cost $800,000 per site to install turf in the smaller stadiums at Ellison, Harker Heights and Shoemaker. And making those stadiums Friday night-ready would cost millions — renovations to Waco Midway’s Panther Stadium cost $10.8 million in 2010.

But there are smaller projects the district could look at fixing to improve conditions and facilities at the high schools for its students.

The locker rooms at Leo Buckley Stadium are not up to 5A standards. The pressbox at the Killeen softball field looks like a large deer stand, the football practice/soccer field at Ellison is a patch of dirt, and if you want to catch a foul ball at a Shoemaker baseball game, you will have the most luck if you are playing on the adjacent softball field.

And it all takes money to fix. Simply put, the athletic facilities at KISD properties are not up to par with most in 5A and certainly are not up with their district rivals.

And it is time to start cooking up some new plans.

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