May 27, 2024

Dodge City School Board discusses new athletic field space

By: Yvonda Offerle, USD 443

Dodge City, KS( In an effort to utilize the fill dirt generated from the bond projects, the USD 443 Board of Education was presented with several options for additional athletic field space at its Dec. 11 meeting.  The meeting was the final one for outgoing board members Barbara Lundin and Brian Mashak.

“When we first started this project, we thought there would barely be enough fill dirt to do one field,” GLMV Architecture Representative Tom P. Montgomery said.  “Engineers did the calculations and we still have excess fill left over.”

At a cost of $10 a yard to haul, and an estimate of approximately 50,000 yards, the board was presented with several possibilities that would allow for the dirt to be used efficiently.

“We have to ask if it makes sense to do a second athletic field, maybe expand the Soule Elementary play area and work in a junior soccer field in that area,” Montgomery said.  “If we have [the dirt available] and we’re able to leverage the cost as amenities, does that make sense?”

Montgomery said one of the biggest issues is making sure the character of the site isn’t changed so water doesn’t drain off any faster than it currently does.  In the past, there have been flooding issues because of the nature of the flow, according to City officials.

“On paper, we could make this work,” Montgomery said.  “What this helps us do is really look and analyze the site, the elevation, and create detention areas so when water comes in; it actually has a positive effect.”

Montgomery said establishing detention areas lessen the rate of flow from the site to the south.  The same volume of water would go through but at a slower rate.   If the board opts for synthetic surfaces, there is also a possibility for drainage under the fields.

“The third field would pretty much pay for itself so we’re here with a three-field concept to use the dirt accumulated from bond projects so we can make some positive uses of it,” Montgomery said.  “We would have three grass fields, a soccer field, and parking – all working with dirt that is already there.”

Montgomery did say there were several alternatives, including synthetic surface on one or two of the fields, or using irrigated fescue sod on all three.

“In my personal opinion, I don’t want to water that much field.  That’s a nightmare,” board member Jeff Hiers said. “In fact, I think I remember saying I would never vote for another natural field.”

Board President Lisa Killion said she thought the discussion was focused on building only one field.

“That’s right, that’s where we started,” Montgomery said.  “This just gives you options.”

According to Executive Director of Business and Operations William Hammond, the district currently buses students to the St. Mary’s Complex for soccer.  The small play area behind Dodge City Middle School has also been eliminated by the erection of a new gymnasium.

“[The three-field concept] also sets us up for a possible third middle school,” Montgomery said.  “And if you ever want another track, it would be just a little bit of work and we could have that system around one of the fields, complete with bleachers.  It would be a second competitive track in the future.”

Board member Ryan Ausmus said that while he’s not opposed to a field or maybe two, he’s not convinced the district needs three, plus an additional junior soccer area at Soule.

“There is definitely an athletic need and I concur that we shouldn’t spend half a million just to get the dirt out of there,” Ausmus said.

Killion asked why one field couldn’t be built, with the excess dirt spread out on the other specified areas.

“If we do at least two fields, we should be able to get the dirt off the site,” Montgomery said.  “But we have to be careful that by putting it on there, it doesn’t change the slope or character of the ground because of speed of run-off.”

Hiers said Athletic Director Jay Gifford spoke to him concerning an idea of building just one oversized field in that area, instead of two separate fields.

“We talked about that with Red and Blue Fields once but the dilemma is how it would affect junior varsity baseball,” Hammond said.  “We could move them to the high school but that would also be expensive.”

While Ausmus said he’s in favor of looking at one oversized field, Killion said that would potentially limit putting another field in that area in the future.

“I would like some explanation about the utility of that from the athletic department and coaches,” Hiers said.  “It’s a tough decision.”

The board opted to table the discussion until its January meeting.