UNION COUNTY — The Union County Board of School Trustees is being asked to address the capital needs of the Union County Stadium before the facility deteriorates to the point where it must be condemned.
The stadium has been the subject of much discussion in recent months with the debate centering on whether or not to build a new stadium or try to bring the existing one up to code. An engineering study of the stadium reached the following conclusions about the facility:
• The stadium does not comply with all aspects of the current 2006 IBC Code.
• The facility does not comply with the Americans for Disability Act or current ANSI regulations.
• Construction types required for the Department of Education does not comply in all buildings.
• Restroom facilities currently on site do not meet the fixture counts required by the Department of Education for a stadium facility.
• As stated in the structural evaluation additional testing needs to be conducted on the home bleachers to assure the foundation supporting of the double tee bleachers has no structural issues due to water collection under the stands.
It also states that the stands on the south end of the baseball field are not safe for spectator use and need to be demolished.
The report also states that, were the following repairs/upgrades to be made it could extend the life of the facility, which was built in the 1960s, another 10-15 years while also bringing it into compliance with South Carolina Department of Education standards. Those repairs/upgrades and their costs include:
• New concession and toilet facilities — $550,000
• ADA issue of accessibility — $325,000
• Electrical issues — $150,000
• Site issues — $225,000
• Remaining building issues — $300,000
Total cost — $1,550,000
The board was addressed Monday night about the stadium by Mike “Brokearm” Cohen who asked why the board has yet to address the needs of the stadium.
“This has been going on for five years and action is needed by you,” Cohen said. “So my question is, what is the delay?”
Cohen also addressed the possibility of building a new stadium at Union County High School, an option he said is not feasible given the cost and time involved and the problems that would result.
“You are not able to build a new stadium,” Cohen said. “There’s no $10 million lying around and the taxpayers are broke and we already have a stadium. There is not enough room at the high school or the roads leading in and traffic would be bad. By the time you get a stadium built it will be time to build a new high school, this one is going on 40 years and is outdated.”
Cohen said a far better option would be to work with Union County to make the needed improvements to the stadium so that it can continue being used for at least another 10 years. He said this option allows the district to spend the next 10 years focusing on using its resources to educate the children of Union County. Furthermore, Cohen said the board will also be able to use those 10 years to plan for building a new high school, even one that will include a new stadium if they choose to include one with it.
In addition, Cohen said such an agreement would mean that the professionals in charge of maintaining the facility would have access to county inmate labor. Furthermore, Cohen said the needed repairs will keep everyone attending games at the stadium safe. He said this would also include the construction of a new field house which could be used to shelter players and coaches in the event of a severe storm, pointing to a recent incident when a lightning storm forced JV players to take shelter in their buses because there was no field house.
Furthermore, Cohen said that such an agreement would allow the JV and Varsity teams to continue playing at the stadium which in turn would bring thousands of football fans in who would in turn patronize local businesses which would in turn generate increased tax revenue.
Cohen also listed some sources of revenue that could be used to finance the improvements and upgrades to the stadium including:
• Having the Sims Middle Scho0l, JV, and Varsity teams playing at the stadium to increase revenue generated by the games played there.
• County tourism funds
• City hospitality funds
• Fair board funds
• Charging an additional $1 per ticket on each person entering the stadium for a game.
Cohen conclude his remarks by asking the board to act and act quickly to address the needs of the stadium before it is too late.
“Now is the time to commit,” Cohen said. “If we don’t do something eventually the stadium will be rated unsafe and condemned and then what?”
Cohen’s presentation was the second time in less than a month that the board has been publicly urged to take action to address the needs of the stadium.
At its Sept. 12 meeting, the board was addressed by WBCU’s Christ Woodson who spoke about the need for the board to focus on the long-term capital needs of the school district. In his remarks, Woodson said that instead of building a new stadium at the existing high school, the district’s long-term goal should be to build a new high school that will include a stadium.
Woodson proposed that the board considering entering into a facilities use agreement of no less than 10 years that would involve it splitting the cost of upgrading the stadium which he said would cost each party involved $600,000-700,000. He said he felt this would not only address the situation at the stadium but also enable the district to address many other capital needs.
The Union County Stadium is the subject of an ongoing debate about whether it should be upgraded or replaced with a new one. The subject was addressed by Mike “Brokearm” Cohen during Monday’s School Board meeting.
Mike “Brokearm” Cohen addresses the Union County Board of School Trustees Monday night. Cohen spoke about the Union County Stadium and the need for the board to address the facility’s needs before it deteriorates to the point where it has to be condemned.
The Union County Stadium was built in the 1960s and is need of upgrades to bring it in compliance with modern regulations and standards. This has lead to a debate on whether those upgrades should be made or if a new stadium should be built. The issue was addressed at Monday’s Union County School Board meeting by Mike “Brokearm” Cohen.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.