DuBois school district, city negotiate ball field upgrade
Friday, June 26, 2009
By Josh Woods Staff Writer
DUBOIS - DuBois Area School Board spoke with DuBois resident Terry Noble and DuBois City Mayor John "Herm" Suplizio regarding the revitalization of Showers Field at its meeting Wednesday night. Mr. Noble approached the board to find out what its intentions are regarding the field during the board's public comment period.
Mr. Noble, who represented the DuBois Rockets, said he and others in the community have worked together to plan the revitalization of the field that he says is in need of maintenance. The field has been recently discussed by the Sandy Lick Creek Recreation Committee and was initially leased to DuBois Baseball Club in 1949 by the city.
"In that original lease agreement the DuBois Baseball Club, which is DuBois Rockets as it's known today, stated purpose was carrying on and promoting baseball, grounding interest in baseball and to train and develop baseball teams and baseball players," said Mr. Noble. "I stand here tonight before you as a testimony of the success of that endeavor in 1949."
Mr. Noble said his goal is for the school district to share the financial burden and continuing maintenance of Showers Field with the community at large. Subsequent 25-year leases were signed in 1974 and 1994, he said, with the blessing of all the parties that lease the field from the city, including the school district. As far as the school is concerned, former Superintendent Sharon Kirk pledged in a 1998 letter to the city's manager that the district would continue to maintain the field as a top-level facility, he said.
However, Mr. Noble continued, Showers Field has deteriorated over the years due to lack of maintenance. The field once contained a scoreboard similar to Boston's Fenway Park, a grandstand, lights and a functional press box. Today, the field does not have a scoreboard or lights and has movable bleachers.
"In the 1970s this facility was a model field," said Mr. Noble. "You would have had to travel as far as Johnstown to find a field that was similar."
Mr. Noble said he was concerned by the recent news the board was exploring the construction of two new fields at Wasson Elementary School, especially after he approached the board two years ago about the Showers Field project. He estimated the district's cost to relocate would be $2 million, plus an additional $30,000-$40,000 a year to maintain three fields as opposed to two fields. Renovating Showers Field, he said, could be done for $1.5 million.
The renovation project would include raising the right field fence, building a grandstand and adding lights. In addition, one property would have to be purchased.
School board member John Yount said the Showers Field project took a back seat to other "priority projects" for the last two years. The board recently began to explore its options at Wasson Elementary after an April meeting with Mr. Suplizio.
"We met with Mayor Suplizio and (Redevelopment Authority Director) Lance Marshall in April and we were told that there were property owners who were not interested in selling," said Mr. Yount. "It looked like the project was going nowhere.
"We thought it was dying, so we started to explore other options. We certainly don't want to be a stumbling block."
Mr. Noble said only one property containing an apartment would need to be purchased as part of the renovation project and that its owner was willing to entertain discussion of its sale if the renovation project came to fruition.
Mr. Suplizio clarified the city's vote last month to support the project. Mr. Suplizio said the city itself would not pledge money toward Showers Field, but was willing to partner with the school district and apply for state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant funding. The city has matched $250,000 to date for improvements at Showers Field including the addition of foot bridges, a sidewalk and handicapped-accessible parking.
"I told you before if you're looking to the city to give you $5-$6 million it's not going to happen," said Mr. Suplizio. "What has to happen here - we can go back and forth on is it the city's responsibility, is it the school board's responsibility - the city will partner with somebody. The city will come forward to work with the school district to make this happen."
Mr. Suplizio added that if the district chose to pursue a project at Wasson Elementary the city couldn't give it a penny, but if it chose to renovate Showers Field it could at least help out with grant funding.
Mr. Noble asked the board to make a decision on whether or not to support the project and to partner with the city, the community and Penn State DuBois.
"We haven't ruled this out, but we haven't ruled Wasson out either," said board member Bev Kurts. "We're exploring all of our options to see what is the best for the taxpayers."