Boosters back $4.3 million renovation for Athens Drive High School

khui@newsobserver.comFebruary 8, 2013 

RALEIGH

Support is growing for a $4.3 million plan to build a new stadium for Athens Drive High School as part of the first major renovation of the school’s athletic facilities since 1978.

Wake County school board members were briefed Wednesday on three proposals, ranging from $4.3 million to $9.3 million, for modernizing its football field, improving other fields, adding more parking spaces and making it more handicapped-accessible. Leaders of the school’s booster club backed the cheapest option and school board members responded they’d work to get funding included in a school construction bond referendum that could go on the fall ballot.

“We’re going to get things done. Trust us,” said board member Jim Martin to parents as they left Wednesday’s facilities committee meeting.

It’s a hopeful sign for parents who’ve been pushing for renovations at Athens Drive, located in west Raleigh near Lake Johnson, for decades. Frustrations grew so high that last summer the booster club hired a lawyer and threatened to take legal action if steps weren’t taken to improve the facilities.

“It’s encouraging that it’s on the table now,” said Karin Evanoff, past president of the Jaguars booster club and the parent of two Athens Drive students.

The focus is Williams Stadium, which hosts football, soccer, lacrosse and track and field events. The stadium is nearly a half-mile from the high school on land that is owned by the city of Raleigh and leased to the school system.

The stadium lacks a field house, forcing athletes to walk to the campus to use lockers, restrooms and showers. Booster club members say the stadium is dimly lit, difficult for emergency crews to reach, with limited parking and lacking enough accommodations for handicapped people.

A major hurdle was overcome in January 2012 when the Raleigh City Council gave permission for renovations.

A study commissioned for the school system came up with three options.

One option would consolidate all athletic facilities on campus and included building a new stadium, an elevated parking structure, a reconstructed baseball field and new tennis courts. The price tag would be $9.3 million.

A second option would continue to use Williams Stadium, but fully upgrade the facility and build a field house. The cost of this option is $4.5 million.

The third option, costing $4.3 million, is a hybrid of the other two. Wake would build a new stadium on campus for football, soccer and lacrosse, allowing athletes to use the existing locker, shower and restroom facilities. Williams Stadium would still be used, but only for track and field and as a multipurpose field, reducing upgrades there.

No decisions or recommendations were made Wednesday, but Martin said he’s confident the school system would include Athens Drive’s funding in the bond issue.

“When you have a problem that’s 30 years old, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to identify a need,” Martin said.

One possible stumbling block, however, is the strained relations between the school board and commissioners.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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