JOHNSON CITY - The Johnson City Commission on Thursday night approved funding renovations to the press box at Memorial Stadium but held off on a move to build new restroom facilities at the site.
Shaw and Shanks Architects will immediately begin design work to improve the dilapidated press box at Science Hill High School's home football field at a cost not to exceed $60,000.
However, a motion to construct a new restroom building at a cost of around $350,000 failed due to logistics involving the fall football season and the possibility that East Tennessee State University might play football there by 2010.
Should the university determine playing at the 80-year-old facility is the best option to facilitate the return of its football program, the stadium would need extensive renovation and expansion work to the tune of several million dollars.
"This is not something we just want to skip into," City Manager Pete Peterson said. "I don't think it would be prudent to make quick decisions and commit to one path."
While ETSU is expected to make a decision within the next few months, Peterson said construction of the restroom facility would likely not be complete for the next football season in any event.
"I just don't see any way, even if you decided to start on it (Friday) morning, it would be completed by (mid-August)," Peterson said.
Commissioners Pete Paduch and Ricky Mohon supported going ahead with the restroom building, while Mayor Steve Darden, Vice Mayor Phil Roe and Commissioner Jane Myron decided to take the "wait and see" approach suggested by Peterson.
"I don't want to take care of a few press people unless we take care of the people we started this for in the first place," Mohon said. "This all started with some women who go to football games and don't have a place to potty."
Paduch shared his belief that ETSU will never "come down to Memorial Stadium."
As for the press box, Tim Shaw said the work will involve removing and replacing rotting wooden supports and dilapidated siding while adding new floors, windows, lighting, railing and a wheelchair lift to make it handicap accessible.
The money for the project will initially come from the city fund balance, but Peterson said the Board of Education could be asked to reimburse the general fund out of school monies.
In the end, each member of the commission agreed that extensive renovations to Memorial Stadium will be necessary in the not-too-distant future.
"It's going to need some substantial work to get it where it needs to be," Roe said. "When our young people go out and play, it ought to be in a first-class facility. Everything else (in the Johnson City school system) is."