MOUNT VERNON – A Mount Vernon City Schools project that has been in the works for over a year is in the bidding process.
Superintendent Bill Seder said the new athletics fieldhouse, which is estimated to cost around $3 million, is currently being bid on by contractors and is “coming down to some final stages.”
The fieldhouse would be approximately 40,000 square feet and would consist of two multi-purpose courts (with potential for a third, if it falls within the district’s price range), a wrestling room, a weight room, locker rooms and offices. Seder said the ideal location for the facility would be in the grassy lot that backs up the football stadium’s parking lot, across Yellow Jacket Drive from the high school.
The project has been spearheaded by the athletic department’s booster club, although some funds will come from the Board of Education, using casino money the district receives from the state. Mount Vernon has received casino money for the last four years, Seder said, and has been saving it for special projects like the fieldhouse.
“What we liked about that was being able to use those moneys for special projects, which makes them a non-taxed source of income that we can put towards these kinds of projects,” Seder said. “When we put in new bleachers at the high school, we used these casino moneys.
"We feel that we can leverage some of this casino money out yearly so that we can offset some of the booster club’s efforts without utilizing tax dollars from the community.”
If all goes according to plan, the district hopes to break ground on the new fieldhouse by August, Mount Vernon High School athletic director Justin Sanford said. It will likely take 10 months to build the facility, so it would ideally open up for use by late spring 2019.
Sanford hopes the district’s estimates are on par with what the official numbers will be, as structural costs due to the grassy area’s low-lying plane could be a factor.
“We’re hopeful that the numbers, the overall cost of it stays true to what we already had essentially bid out and got back in,” Sanford said. “I mean, there are some slight modifications that we’ve made since that initial process a year and a half ago, so it could be a little more.”
Building an athletics fieldhouse has been an idea within the district for the last 20 years or so, Sanford noted. This facility would allow high school and middle school athletic programs to have substantially more access to facilities during the offseason. It would also provide a venue for the community’s youth program to use for development.
The high school and middle school currently both have just one gym apiece, and it is often booked until 8 or 9 p.m. on school nights by teams that are currently in-season. This has limited some of the district’s programs which need to use the facility for offseason workouts at that same time.
“We live one season at a time here because of our facilities,” Sanford said bluntly. “And if you’re going to be competitive, not just in the Ohio Cardinal Conference but throughout Central Ohio and in our district, it can’t just be your two-month, in-season time that you get access to the facility.
"So the additional court space would alleviate some of that stress on our middle school and high school gyms, but then it will also open up opportunities for those out-of-season programs to get time.”
The school’s wrestling program would also greatly benefit from the new fieldhouse, as wrestlers have previously had to practice at Pleasant Street Elementary. With their own room on the high school’s campus, wrestlers would be able to work out at a convenient location all year long.
Sanford believes the new fieldhouse will offer an opportunity for the community’s youth programs to improve, too. While youth teams within the community would often ask to use the school’s lone gym for events, he has frequently had to turn them down because of how often it is booked.
This additional space could solve that problem.
Seder said by the end of June, the district should be “closer to having an idea” on how quickly the project will progress.
“The fieldhouse is kind of coming down to some final stages, where we have a couple of contactors who are bidding on that work,” Seder said. “And so we’re waiting on those final prices.”