School system, county team up on sports complex

Columbia County school and government officials on Wednesday announced plans to build an athletics complex, including a new stadium, near Lakeside High School.

Schools Superintendent Charles Nagle said the county finalized last week the purchase of about 70 acres of undeveloped property behind Lakeside's baseball field. He estimated the project's cost to be as much as $12 million, with funding coming from the school board's and county's 1 percent sales tax. That estimate includes the $1.6 million to buy the land from Reed Creek LLC.

At a news conference in the school's auditorium, Nagle stressed that the county and the school system will share full use of all amenities.

County Commissioner Ron Thigpen, whose District 1 will hold the project, said the park will connect to 22 acres of county-owned green space. Darren Prickett, a landscape architect with project designer Johnson, Laschober and Associates P.C., said the new park will include features that expand on those at Blanchard Woods Park in Evans.

Prickett said the cost of the first phase, which includes site work and infrastructure, will be shared. The school board will pay 56 percent, nearly $4 million, while the county will pay the rest, about $2.5 million.

The final portion of the two-phase project might get under way in 2014 or 2015, Prickett said. It will include building the fields and paving parking areas.

Commission Chairman Ron Cross said the project will meet the county's goal of bringing a recreation facility to District 1.

Applause rang out from when Nagle mentioned another benefit of the project: an additional entrance to Lakeside high and middle schools. The two schools now have just one entrance off Blue Ridge Drive. The new entrance will connect the schools to Evans to Locks Road via King Taylor Road.

Nagle said relocating some of the schools' athletics facilities would provide room for more parking and potential additions to Lakeside High.

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