D-B parking lot makeover could overlap Fun Fest

Rick Wagner • Feb 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Dobyns-Bennett High School’s parking lot soon may be getting a long awaited makeover, but the project could overlap with this year’s Fun Fest community celebration and other summer activities on the D-B campus.

The parking lot project will include landscaped islands to help separate traffic and pedestrians.

Initial estimates are that the parking lot resurfacing and layout changes — also including speed tables, designated pedestrian walkways, a “teardrop” roundabout and possibly a second roundabout — could take from May 25 to July 25 and cost about $500,000, down from an $850,000 estimated project last year.

Fun Fest, scheduled for July 10-18, usually makes use of the lot, as would the AAU girls basketball tournaments July 3-8 at D-B and the Drum Corps International Festival July 7 at D-B.

The Kingsport Board of Education is to vote on the project, which has been on its capital improvement project list for three years, at its March 5 meeting.

Hank Clabaugh, city engineer, said the changes will cut the available parking spaces by about 75 to an estimated 359, a number he said could change. However, Clabaugh said the driver’s education area adjacent to Fort Henry Drive would remain and could be used as overflow parking as it has been.

“I would like not to lose that many spaces,” BOE member Wally Boyd said, adding that the city has done a wonderful engineering job on the project, but he still has qualms about it. “I think we have a responsibility to work with them (Fun Fest and the Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau events) as much as possible.”

BOE President Susan Lodal said the board has asked if the work could cease for select events or the whole project could be speeded up to end by early July.

“It is a well-used area,” Lodal said Wednesday. “We are trying to find some kind of compromises.”

Boyd said delaying the project until school starts would complicate on-campus parking during the day and football game parking on Friday nights.

Clabaugh said the city is doing the design and engineering on the project, and details are still being finalized. He said for the project to go forward with bidding out this year, the BOE really needs to act at its meeting next week.

“It’s definitely going to take some coordination between the two,” Clabaugh said of the parking lot project and Fun Fest.

Jud Teague, executive director of the KCVB that brought the AAU and drum corps events to Kingsport, and Lucy Fleming, director of Fun Fest, said they believe details will be worked out to accommodate events as best as possible this summer.

“We do want to work with them,” Fleming said, adding that the lot is used throughout most of Fun Fest, and Fun Fest raises money by selling the right to use all but 70 spaces in the D-B lot toward the end of the event. The spaces not sold are used for handicapped parking.

Teague said the events KCVB brings to town could use other parking areas for the most part, except for one AAU tournament day when additional parking must be found if the D-B lot is unavailable.

He said other options could be shuttle buses from the Kingsport Town Center and using the Civic Auditorium lots.

Fleming said Fun Fest generally packs those parking lots and others in the area, adding that the fireworks display finale for Fun Fest blocks use of other D-B parking on the final Friday and Saturday night.

Clabaugh said one option is seeing how much of a premium the school system might have to pay to get the project done in four or five weeks instead of eight weeks. He said as a practical matter, the entire parking lot will be milled down and paved at the same time, making it difficult to open part of the lot early to handle heavy usage during the Taste of the Tri-Cities and concerts during the last half of Fun Fest.

“It’s hard to do in phases. We’re milling all the asphalt, so the parking lot is going to be out at one time,” Clabaugh said.

Clabaugh said the down economy makes this one of the best times in recent memory to bid out a construction project.

“This is the cheapest you’re going to get construction projects for a long, long time,” Clabaugh said Tuesday.

He presented preliminary plans to the BOE at its work session last Thursday.

The project is to include brick-colored, stamped asphalt that looks like brick and a teardrop-shaped roundabout near the stadium and front of the school.

Clabaugh said a second roundabout, on Midland Drive near the school and Civic Auditorium, may or may not make it in the final proposal.

“Throughout the parking lot there are going to be islands — landscaped islands with trees, mulch and bushes,” Clabaugh said, likening the design to the East Stone Commons shopping Center on Eastman Road and the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Stone Drive near Hawkins County.

Landscaped areas will have six-inch curbs.

The main parking lot of the nearly 2,000-student high school is bounded by the school building to the northeast, Civic Auditorium lot to the northwest, J. Fred Johnson Stadium to the southwest, and Fort Henry Drive to the southeast.

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