Originally created 09/23/05

Laney sports complex plan given nod

The Richmond County school board moved forward with construction of the Lucy C. Laney High School athletic complex, but there is still a chance of a joint project with the city for a larger football stadium.

In a called meeting Thursday, the school board approved a bid for $8.5 million from R.W. Allen & Associates for the roughly 25-acre complex that will include a 6,000-seat stadium, baseball field, softball field, soccer field and field house.

School board President Marion Barnes cautioned, though, that the move doesn't close the door on discussions with the city to expand the stadium to 12,000 seats through a joint venture.

"We are amenable to accepting that, but the school board can't spend any more money," Mr. Barnes said.

The city reprogrammed $2.5 million for expansion of the stadium in a special meeting Aug. 31, but that amount isn't enough, Superintendent Charles Larke said.

When the city and school board began talking about a joint project, the school system asked for $3 million from the city, Dr. Larke said. The city's offer is less money, and since initial discussions the cost of construction has gone up.

Changes to the size of the stadium can still be made if done early in the process, he said.

Board member Ken Echols agreed that the funding for a stadium expansion would have to come from the city.

It also would be inconsistent and unfair to other schools in the county if a larger facility was constructed at Laney, he said.

Besides, the school system can only justify building a stadium that seats 6,000 spectators, Mr. Echols said.

The school system began preparing to come up short in funding for its list of construction projects in June. With the increased cost of construction, the vocational technical magnet school, which was on the list, probably won't be built.

In order to come within budget with the bid approved Thursday night, project managers had to whittle costs of the bid down without affecting the quality of the project. The school system budgeted $8.52 million for the athletic complex. The reductions of $497,000 brought the bid for the project to $8.5 million.

With the approval of the bid, construction is set to begin today and is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2006.

City Administrator Fred Russell said the city is interested in improving the quality and size of the stadium, but he hasn't been briefed on the details.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

Athletic complex by the numbers

25: Acres

700: Number of students at Lucy C. Laney High School

$8.5 million: Cost

6,000: Seats in the stadium

146: Properties bought to build the complex

Source: Richmond County Board of Education


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