Could a shared football stadium be the answer for Washington County?


800px-american_football_in_tel-aviv_israel-475x300By Collin Brooks

The talks of athletic facilities — mainly in football — have not just reared their head with the resignation of David Crockett football coach Jeremy Bosken. Washington County officials have talked about the issue as recently as three months ago, when meetings were held between school officials to toss around the preliminary idea of constructing one football stadium that would be shared by both David Crockett and Daniel Boone.

Nothing was pursued, but it appears that a shared stadium may be the only possibility if the schools system wants to address the issue sooner than later.

“The prospects of building one nice football stadium in Washington County are much greater then the prospects of building two,” Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said. “We are talking really general here, but let’s say we wanted to build one football stadium in a central location for both high schools to utilize, I think there is a way to structure capital funding and get that built.

“Now can we do two? Absolutely not, it’s unrealistic., 20 years from now, maybe so. But would we prefer to have one nice stadium now or hope for two nice stadiums 20 years from now? I think that those are the kind of questions that we are going to have to start answering.”

Daniel Boone Athletic Director Danny Good said that he would be for a plan that would have one stadium, but he said, no matter what they do, it needs to happen sooner than later.

“Regardless of what it is, whether it is one stadium like they have in Morristown, or maybe a site off campus, or if they improve the facilities at the school, why are we not moving forward with it?” Good said. “Let’s get busy, because as each graduating class moves on, it is that much less of an opportunity to serve our kids like we can.”

In looking at the possibilities, Good said he would like a committee formed that would address a plan. That committee could consist of school board members, county commissioners, coaches and members of the public, so that everyone could have a voice in the future of the county’s athletic facilities.

The current long-range plan from the school system calls for the athletic facilities to be addressed in 2020, and while that isn’t too late, Good said that they have things that need to be addressed now.

“I don’t think anything is too late, but we have pressing needs now,” he said, “but we have pressing needs in not only athletic world, but in the academic world, and I respect that 100 percent and I understand that, I do.”

In recent years, the school system has spent close to $90 million on building new schools and updating the high schools. But they haven’t spent close to that number in updating the athletic facilities, according to Good.

David Crockett athletic director Josh Kite agreed with Good in saying that something needed to happen now.

“For the last 40 years, it’s just been kind of flat, there has not been an upgrade done, we have just maintained” he said. “If something messed up, we just kind of put Band-Aids on fixings. We aren’t caught up to the modern day facilities.”

Kite said that one stadium would have its perks, but there are multiple needs at David Crockett, including the need for an auxiliary gym.

“We would take anything we could get, and while building one stadium would be great, if we are going to invest into one stadium, why not just take that money and spilt it up amongst the schools and let them use the $2 million or however much it would be to put in new stands and field turf,” Kite said.

Donors could also be solicited to ease some of the cost to the taxpayers, similar to how Knoxville County Schools handled their updates with a $10 million donation from Pilot Flying J to put field turf on 13 of their county fields. Even Elizabethton, who completed their stadium in 2015, had close to $800,000 in donations for their $4.3 million stadium that seats close to 4,000 people.

Washington County Board of Education member Annette Buchanan — who is also the head of the athletic committee — said that she felt like it will be difficult for the board to move any athletic facility projects forward from their 2020 date.

“I don’t see really anything being done until that point, because when you prioritize that is where it falls,” she said. “And we have to make sure that it doesn’t get pushed back any further.

Buchanan said that she hasn’t had a coach stand in front of her committee and voice their displeasure, but she did say that Good and Kite have voiced their concern.

“But with the Boones Creek school just sitting there,” she said. “The commission has said, ‘Here are your pennies and do what you can with your pennies.’ So I think it will have to stay where it is in our long-range plan.”

Eldridge said that he would like to see the school board act on improvements, but before that can happen, he said the first thing that has to happen is the board overcoming a mentality that has held the county back for so many years.

“The competition between the North side of the county and the South side of the county has to go away before we can meaningfully address the real needs of our athletic programs,” Eldridge said. “We are competing with ourselves, we are supposed to be competing with the other counties and other schools.

“We have a limited pot of money, the idea that if you spend $1 million on the North side of the county, you’re going to have to spend $1 million on the South side of the county, quite frankly, has resulted in us doing very little. What we need to figure out is, how can we work together, as a county, to most effectively meet the needs of both schools and maybe that means a shared facility.”


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