$177 million in possible improvements proposed for Austin school district’s athletic facilities

Austin American-Statesman
Oct. 10, 2012

By Jody Serrano

A committee is mulling a set of possible bond projects that include up to $176.9 million in improvements to sports facilities in the Austin school district’s secondary schools.

Trustees are considering calling a bond election in 2013 that would include money for a range of projects, including overhauling facilities that have not received renovations since 2004.

The bond advisory committee updated the school board on their progress at a meeting Monday.

In addition to the bond projects, the district was asked to increase its spending on athletics by about $2 million a year.

In the past two years the Austin school district has cut about more than half a million in athletics funding.

Board president Mark Williams said that while the board may consider program changes as part of the annual recommendations, the facility improvements would have to be part of a bond package.

“We don’t have the operating budget capacity to do all that is recommended,” Williams said.

Still in the early phases of its work, the committee suggests that the district provide stipends and flexible duty days to help recruit and retain coaches. Specific bond projects could include new artificial turf at Burger, Nelson and House Park stadiums; building a district natatorium; and improving locker rooms.

District athletic director Tommy Cox said each facility needs specific improvements, some of them key to keeping students safe. Improving ventilation in locker rooms and installing new turf could reduce the chances of bacterial infections in locker rooms and reduce injuries on the field, he said.

McCallum High School head football Coach Jason Cecil said his campus does not have enough locker rooms and shares its football fields with roughly 20 athletic teams and the dance and fine arts departments.

Cecil said sports facilities are something people assess when determining where to live.

“That definitely plays in where they try to live and send their kids to school,” Cecil said.

Billy Won, a McCallum senior and football player, said being involved in athletics has helped him do better in school by making him more disciplined. Won said he definitely sees a need for facility improvement, noting that all the equipment in the school weight room is either falling apart or rusted.

“If you’re using a state of the art weight room your players are doing to be better, faster, stronger, “ Won said. “If you’re using an old beat down weight room you might not get the results that you would in an advanced setting.”

Early bond committee ideas on sports projects

The committee so far has come up with three scenarios for secondary school athletic improvement projects, the largest of which would cost $176.9 million. Major highlights include:

Proposal 1: $80.1 million

$33.6 million on locker rooms

$8 million for a swim facility

$1.6 million on new artificial turf at Burger, Nelson and House Park stadiums

Proposal 2: $110.7 million

All of Proposal 1, plus

$24 million for artificial turf at 11 high schools

$2.1 million for high school laundry rooms

$50,000 for new middle school ice machines

Proposal 3: $176.9 million

All of proposals 1 and 2, plus

$8.9 million for concession stands and restrooms

$27.4 million for wrestling gyms

$26 million for natatorium

Source: Austin school district