His message was referring to questions about the need for a $400,000 paved practice field for the band, which the Kingsport Board of Education approved 5-0 at its Aug. 2 meeting.
“I wanted to take a moment and let you know a little about the KCS (Kingsport City Schools) school board's decision to fund the creation of a paved practice area where the existing band field currently sits,” Cook wrote in a message to parents. “This area will serve several purposes, and from July through November it will serve as a practice area for the marching band.”
The board, as recommended by Chief Financial Officer David Frye and Superintendent Lyle Ailshie, voted to accept the low bid of $375,937 from Vic Davis Construction Inc. Added to that figure are architect’s fees from Mattern & Craig Inc. of $27,960 and a 6 percent contingency fee of $22,556, making for a total of up to $426,453. Cook said the paving is an improvement the band needs. The competitive band and larger football band use the field.
Since the project is less than $500,000 it did not require approval from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Frye said at the meeting the work should be completed by the middle of September. In the meantime, Cook told the board that the band will move its practices to Indian Highland Park until the new paved area is completed.
“Contractors are in the process of performing the regular and required background checks for all personnel that will be on site, including subcontractors,” Assistant Superintendent of Administration Andy True said Monday in a written statement. “Once that is completed, they will move to begin mass grading. Dirt could start moving at some point as early as next week, but could be later (early September) depending on scheduling.”
Cook said, “While the field looks like grass from the perimeter, the center of the field where we march is mostly dirt,” adding that “360 pairs of feet (in the football band) marching in the same patterns over and over again quickly kills the grass.” The color guard was practicing on the field Monday afternoon.
“Once the field turns to dirt, the kids’ feet stirs up dust and grit which gets in the mechanisms of the students’ horns, creating damage for the brass valves and slides,” Cook said. “It’s also impossible to keep paint on dirt, so the needed yard lines and hashes quickly disappear. Additionally, once the grass is gone the slightest precipitation creates mud, which prevents us from rehearsing after it rains. (Twice in the 10 years we've been using that field we have had to abandon it and move to another field for the reasons above.)”
He said the new paved surface will allow painting permanent markings “that will help the students learn and perform at a higher level.” He also said a colorant will lighten the pavement from black “to a lighter (and less heat absorbent) gray. “In researching this, we found that almost every band of our size across the country is rehearsing on pavement. This includes most of the bands in Texas.” He was referring to bands with which D-B’s competition band competes in Bands of America contests.
“This new paved area will also serve as much needed event parking. While it won't be used for student parking, there are plans to use the new area for events like tennis matches, track meets and summer events on campus like the AAU tournaments held in the dome and Fun Fest concerts. This additional parking is no small part of the justification of the expense,” Cook said.
Frye said the bids ranged from the low bid from Davis up to $466,692, all of which were more than the $200,000 set aside in the 2016-17 budget for the project long requested by Cook, who applauded the board after the vote. The board at Frye’s behest decided to take the money for the rest of the project not covered by the $200,000 from a small capital projects fund of $300,000.
The artificial turf at J. Fred Johnson Stadium is on the KCS capital improvement project list for replacement in 2017-18 at an estimated cost of $1 million. The field was converted from sod to turf in 2008. Aside from the practice field, the band practices in the stadium, when available, and at Indian Highland Park.
Here is video of the first half of the band’s football show, which had its debut Thursday night, Aug. 18, at J. Fred Johnson Stadium: