The Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. is exploring the possibility of building a new soccer complex on the Columbus AirPark campus that would be shared by Columbus North and Columbus East high schools.

BCSC school board members this week approved borrowing $13 million in bonds, a portion of which would be dedicated for the soccer complex, while money would also be used for continuing upgrades to infrastructure at both high schools.

Plans indicate the outdoor soccer complex could be completed by August 2019, to be located on land leased from the Columbus Municipal Airport.

“Soccer is a big deal in this town, and we don’t have an adequate facility for the high schools or the local soccer club,” school board member Robert Abrams said.

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The soccer complex proposal calls for two competition fields with scoreboards, lighting and expanded spectator seating. The new complex also would have a press box between the new competition fields, a restroom/concession building and fencing surrounding the area.

The district has proposed building its outdoor soccer facility just north of the three-field Richard Wigh Soccer Complex, north of Parkside Drive, currently used by boys and girls soccer teams from the two high schools.

Only one of the three fields that make up the Wigh Soccer Complex is considered a competition field with lighting. It has a changing room for players that is small, said Mark Jones, parks and recreation director for the city, which oversees the current facility.

The current fields also have limited spectator seating with no handicapped accessibility, according to the school’s project outline.

Future planning for the school district’s soccer complex will consider a full-sized locker room building, additional seating and other amenities.

The $13 million, the maximum the school district can borrow without increasing tax rates, can be split among the three separate projects — the soccer complex and proposed improvements at East and North high schools, said Chad Phillips, assistant superintendent for financial services. However, no single project can exceed $5 million, he said.

The projects were identified based on a priority list that was originally created in 2009 that has been updated and revised over the years, said Jim Roberts, BCSC superintendent.

“This allows us to address a sizable number of needs,” Roberts said.

The exact location of the new complex has yet to be determined, and a proposed lease has not been considered, school district and airport officials said.

Road extensions or other improvements that might be necessary once a specific location has been identified would be paid using Airport Tax Increment Financing district funds, airport director Brian Payne said.

The Columbus Express Soccer Club had planned to open an indoor soccer complex along Vickers Drive by November 2016 after Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing said it would foot most of the cost to create a $750,000 to $1 million indoor complex on the Columbus Municipal AirPark campus. However, soccer club president Seth Keele last month said building plans are on hold while the club works with community partners to assess needs for an indoor facility, which could serve sports beyond soccer.

The parcel that has been considered by the local soccer club is part of the large land area being considered by the school district for its complex.

Keele could not be reached this week for comments on the school district’s plans.

Mutual benefit

Roberts said the existing fields at the Wigh Soccer Complex would remain in place once construction on BCSC’s proposed soccer complex is completed.

Instead of the city parks and recreation department, the two soccer fields in the new complex would be managed by the school corporation.

Roberts said by working together with other entities, the district would make sure access to all fields would be made available for public use.

“Working together, I think we can pull off an excellent addition for the community,” Abrams said.

The addition of two new soccer fields would be a benefit to the city, said Jones, noting that Columbus has more than 1,000 children participate annually in its soccer leagues.

“This is definitely a soccer community,” Jones said.

Additionally, Jones said, the two new soccer fields can help boost sports tourism in the community.

That view was supported by Ike DeClue, director of sports tourism for the Columbus Area Visitors Center.

More fields would give Columbus the flexibility to host larger tournaments, he said.

“Columbus is a good sports destination for now, and there’s some growth for soccer to be had,” DeClue said.

However, DeClue said more discussions need to take place with the school district to find out more details about its plans, the amount of usage the new fields would receive from the schools and what offseason opportunities might be available for other interested parties.

Project timelines

In addition to the soccer complex, board members got a look at planned improvements at the district’s two primary high schools.

At North, plans call for adding security cameras, improving the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, electrical work, lighting at the baseball field and adding fire sprinklers to parts of the building.

At East, improvements include improvements to the HVAC system, electrical improvements, tennis court resurfacing and replacing the stadium visitor bleachers.

The school board, which unanimously approved a funding resolution for all three projects, will receive updates about the proposed soccer complex in the spring or summer. Board approval to seek bids for the soccer complex will be sought in the fall of this year, Roberts said.

The facility-improvement projects at East and North high schools will be bid in summer of fall of this year, with projects also completed by August 2019.

Proposed facility improvements

Columbus AirPark soccer complex

Improvements include:

  • Two competition fields with scoreboards and lighting
  • Spectator seating at each field
  • A shared press box between the fields
  • Restroom/concessions building
  • Parking lot
  • Fencing around the facility
  • Future plans for a locker room building, additional seating and other amenities.

Columbus East High School 

Improvements include:

  • Repairs and safety improvements to catwalks, rigging in the Clarence Robbins Auditorium, along with lighting and sound system improvements.
  • Improvements to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, in addition to building electrical improvements.
  • Improving parking lot lighting and tennis courts resurfacing.
  • Adding lighting to the baseball field and replacement of a stadium sound system.

Columbus North High School 

Improvements include:

  • Adding security cameras, physical education locker and shower room improvements, HVAC improvements and interior wall repairs.
  • Electrical improvements.
  • Add lighting at the baseball field, asphalt and sidewalk/curb repairs.
  • Adding a crosswalk at Home Avenue.
  • Replace secondary stage curtains at Judson Erne Auditorium.

Source: Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com