The stadium project calls for major improvements to the 1942 grandstand, adding an upper deck with 1,500 new seats, a new press box and new areas for concessions, handicapped accessibility and restrooms along with wider aisles and hand rails and new covered concourses.
The $4.2 million project also includes a 1,200-square-foot dressing room near first base for visiting football and baseball teams, with family bathrooms available for non-athletic events. Funding for the project has been programmed into the city’s five-year capital improvement plan (CIP) by City Manager John Campbell and will likely be included in a $13.7 million bond issuance sold next fiscal year to cover a variety of capital projects within the city.
A citizens committee has been championing the stadium project for more than a year, working with a New York-based sports facility design company (CHA Sports) on the plan and most recently attending BMA work sessions and regular meetings to keep the project at the forefront of city leaders’ minds. During last week’s BMA work session, city leaders clarified to the citizens committee the project could move forward with the bidding process.
“(The project) is on time and everything has been thoroughly looked at and researched,” said Kingsport attorney Todd East, a member of the citizens committee. “Now we’re just waiting to see if the bid is consistent with the budget, and if it is, then everything should be in line to go forward.”
Originally, the BMA indicated the project would probably not start until after this year’s football season ended in November, shying away from starting in March due to the uncertainty of how the funding would fit into the CIP. The BMA also did not like the idea of doing the project in two phases since that would add an estimated $60,000 to the total cost due to the construction company having to mobilize its efforts twice. However, that $60,000 cost is apparently no longer in play.
“That was due to mobilization costs, and if you do the excavation work at one time, you reduce or eliminate that,” East said.
The plan now is to do the project in two phases — excavation, construction of new ground level bathrooms and the dressing room done before the start of football season with the remaining work (new seats, press box and elevator) completed after football season.
“From a time standpoint, (crews) can get started and be doing the excavation work when the weather is good, students will be getting out of school and the work should not interfere with graduation or Fun Fest,” East said.
“Our hope for this year is to have new bathrooms at least on the ground level behind the stadium, a few more risers for the band and the visitor’s locker room near the baseball side,” said local developer Danny Karst, another member of the citizens committee. “Those things are so independent, they’ll probably get done this year.”
The bid announcement is expected to go out next week and have a 21- to 25-day bid period. CHA has already completed the schematic design, design development and pre-preparation of construction drawings on the stadium project. East said crews would look to secure the premises around Aug. 18 until November and then continue on with the project.
“We don’t anticipate getting the stands erected (before football season),” East said. “The timetable to order the press box and elevator won’t allow it.”
However, crews will be able to replace the light poles around the stadium at the same time the first phase is taking place. The $560,000 lighting project is separate from the stadium project. The only unknown is whether a new scoreboard will be installed at the stadium this year. City and school officials have discussed the need for a new scoreboard, with an estimated cost of $300,000, but the item has not been included in either the city’s or the school system’s CIP for the next two years. City officials have said the scoreboard could be paid for with short-term financing and paid back through sponsorships. At the same time, city officials have said $1 million of the stadium project could be offset through new seat sales. The season ticket price for the new seats has not been determined.