Negotiations are continuing between Union County and the Union County School District over who will be responsible for the maintenance and operation of the Union County Stadium.
Union County Airport and Stadium Director Ronnie Wade reported to Union County Council Tuesday evening on negotiations between the county and the school district over the future of the stadium. Wade said the main question to be decided by the negotiations is who will be responsible for the maintenance and operation of the stadium. He said an answer is needed soon because football season begins at the end of August.
“The idea was that the school system could either take over maintenance of the facility and rent it for a dollar a year or they could help with the expenses and let us continue to operate it like we are now,” Wade said. “The school system has something in writing to that effect which includes the costs and operation procedures. They have an opportunity if they want to lease it they can actually have it for a dollar a year or they can provide a fixed amount to help us with the costs of operating it. That’s what’s being negotiated.
“Our problem is now that we don’t have an answer,” he said. “Do we go ahead and put up a new storage building to replace the old? They were wanting team benches for each side, do we go ahead and put them up? They were going to need some tents to work under, who is going to be responsible for that? Do we need to order new pylons and game chains, the chains where they mark the first downs or do they? The game chains cost $800. The field marking paint is about $2,000. We need to know who is going to be responsible and we don’t know that yet.”
Wade said the Union County Board of School Trustees is scheduled to meet July 23. He said it is his understanding that the board will take up the matter at that time.
The negotiations between the county and the city over the future of the stadium began earlier this year and follow in the wake of changes made to its use in recent years. Until the construction of the Timken Sports Complex, high school baseball and Legion baseball game were played at the stadium. For the past three years, high school baseball games have been played at Timken and Legion games have been played there for the past year. Currently, the school district only uses the stadium for Varsity football. The stadium is, however, use for non-sporting activities such as concerts, religious events, yard sales and car washes and other events.
Wade also reported to council about the progress on obtaining clear zones for approaches to the Union County Airport runway.
“When you have an approach to the airport you have a height-restricted zoning ordinance,” Wade said. “What we’re doing now is buying trees from land owners and cutting them down on their property to clear up the approaches to the airport. We feel like they have lost some property value when we cut down the trees so we pay them for it.”
Wade said that the Federal Aviation Administration has provided funding to help pay for the cost of cutting the trees and compensating the property owners. That will amount to 95 percent of the eventual cost with the county providing the other five percent. The final cost will not be known until the negotiations with the landowners are completed and the trees felled.
The airport runway is 3,500 feet in length and the county plans to eventually lengthen it to 5,000 feet so it can accommodate corporate jets. Wade said this process will be facilitated by the clearing of the trees, adding that the county has already acquired land to lengthen the runway which will be done in phases. He said the lengthening process will resume when the trees are removed. At that time, a new airport layout plan will be drafted and a determination made on how much the runway will be lengthened in the next phase.