Bond issue modified to include eastside stadium
Project’s size to be determined at special Monday meeting
Mill Valley fans will get a stadium at their school's athletic field, if De Soto USD 232 school district patrons approve the proposed $76.75 million bond issue in November.
At their meeting Monday, school board members came to a consensus to allocate funds from the proposed bond issue to construct bleachers and a press box at the Jaguars' field. The scope of the project will be decided at a special board session at 6 p.m. Monday.
Denis Johnson, director of facilities, presented board members with several options for constructing home-side grandstands and a press box at the Mill Valley football field. The first and most expensive option would provide 1,900 seats on the home side of the field, complete with press box and sound system for approximately $790,000. A second option would provide the same 1,900 seats, but a press box, accessibility lift and screening would not be included in the $575,000 price tag. The last scenario would save $60,000 by eliminating the sound system from the second option.
Johnson also provided figures for the same scenarios with 1,600- and 1,200-seat grandstands, for a total of nine options for board consideration.
Based on community support from the east side of the district, board members agreed a stadium was needed at Mill Valley. Average attendance at Jaguar home games played at De Soto High School is about 1,000. Proponents of the stadium improvements said more students and parents would attend Mill Valley games if they were contested closer to their home. Many students don't attend home games because of the distance from Shawnee to De Soto and the safety of the roads they have to travel to get there.
Curtis Allenbrand, board member from Shawnee, said he stood by the position he stated at the Sept. 3 meeting: each high school represented two distinct communities, and each community needed its own athletic stadium. He added that if students were able to walk to games instead of being bussed or drive themselves, attendance would increase and the overall high school experience would be enhanced.
But board member Sandy Thierer of De Soto said the board had made its policy that there would be one central district stadium until a third high school was constructed.
"I think we should start with a measured approach," she said, "and do things gradually. We had a policy that said we were going to have a district stadium. I think we need to think about the long-term and where we're headed if we decide to do stadium improvements at Mill Valley.
"I'm not married to the policy, and I'm not against a stadium at Mill Valley. I just think if we're going to do this, then we need to change our policy and communicate it to the district our goals for the long-term so staff and patrons are aware of our position."
Bill Waye, board president, agreed and suggested the members think about the long-term goals of the district when selecting the best and right way to make the Mill Valley stadium improvements. He said he didn't know if a 1,200-seat grandstand would accommodate Jaguar fans should improvements be made at their home field. He said a larger grandstand may be more appropriate. Right now, there are 701 students enrolled at MVHS and 376 at DHS. Average attendance at Wildcat home games is 2,500.
Thierer and fellow De Soto board members Jim Plummer and Rick Walker all said De Soto patrons they had talked to were in favor of Mill Valley having its own stadium, and phasing it in over a period of years, much like the district did with at facilities for De Soto High School.
"People I've talked to are for it," Walker said. "Their feeling is there will always be a stadium at De Soto High School if there's a stadium at Mill Valley, and they want their games to stay at home."
That brought up the issue of financing. Johnson said there wasn't enough money in the district's capital outlay fund to pay for the improvements, and suggested increasing the capital outlay mill levy to pay for a portion. The one-quarter-cent sales tax passed by Johnson County voters in August can't be used for capital improvement projects, according to deputy superintendent Sharon Zoellner.
But Zoellner said the bond issue proposal provided for the construction of new activity and athletic fields so funds could be allocated for the Mill Valley improvements should the board decide to go that route.
Waye said the only way he saw the board proceeding with the project was to allocate funds from the bond issue. And members needed to think about it carefully, but quickly, to get its intent communicated effectively to district patrons before the November general election. Advanced voting begins Oct. 16.
"We appreciate your consideration and support the phase-in approach," Warren Gfeller, Shawnee resident said. "I know people will support the bond issue even more if the stadium improvements are included. We're not looking for a Cadillac sound system out there. Really, our goal is to have home games.
"We would hope the whole community would see it as an investment in the district, one that will not only strengthen our community over there but will lift the whole district."
Board members will talk to district patrons between now and the special meeting Monday night and then decide on the extent of the stadium improvements.