CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – The Clarion Area School District has no plans to sever its contract with Clarion University for the use the football field at Memorial Stadium, despite approving bids for some improvements to the Clarion Area Football Field at last Tuesday’s school district meeting.
(Pictured: Clarion Area Bleachers being replaced for safety.)
Additional ADA improvements for the field are also possible, depending on results on a $535,000.00 appropriation request to U.S/ Senator Bob Casey.
“We use that field for varsity girls soccer and for our JV and junior high football programs,” Clarion Superintendent Joe Carrico told d9sports.com.
“Quite frankly, the field is in disrepair. It’s a bad look for the district. and it’s been let go for a while, and that’s it. We had an opportunity to throw some savings from the renovation at the elementary school to spruce it up a little bit.
“The bleachers were wood, and they were breaking all the time. There is construction tape around the bleacher parts that were broken. There are no restrooms down there. Let’s say there’s a person that wheelchair-bound that wants to go watch a game. They literally have to drive down to the access road and park out behind the fence.”
The purpose was never the relationship with the university football field, but safety problem with the Clarion Area field.
“The truth is we had a play-off girl soccer game down there last year, and you couldn’t see because the lights are yellow and the field was so bad. They would kick the ball and clumps of dirt and grass would come up.”
Carrico saw plans from 1986 for improvement in the field and putting an all-weather track down there and costs were estimated at millions of dollars.
“It was horrible, and the district had to get the team off of it,” Carrico said. “The university was gracious enough to let us use one of the practice fields until we figured something out.”
The items approved on Tuesday included bleacher seating for the football field from Holloway Seating at a cost of $113,057.00 and a football field lighting project from Pioneer Electric at a cost of $41,280.00. Costs would be paid from savings in refinancing an existing bond.
“From that refinance point, we’re paying $600,000.00 on the bond, and the key to that is to end bond payments in 2039,” continued Carrico. “It was originally scheduled, paid off in 2041. Our goal would be to maintain bond payment savings. At the end of that, if you saved for two years, you’d save in excess of a million and a half dollars.”
A possible Third Avenue entrance to new ADA restrooms, ADA seating areas, ADA parking beside the field, and a solid walkway around the field.
The scenario of Senator Casey’s involvement with the application was explained by School Board Member Braxton White.
“One of the first roles I took on after I got elected to the school board in 2017 was as our legislative representative,” said White. “I’ve been in regular contact with our elected officials to make sure they understand the needs of our district.
“Senator Casey’s team has been particularly attentive to our issues here, holding regular meetings with myself and our current legislative representative Sara Robertson, along with a visit to the Clarion County Center in 2019.
“During a recent Zoom meeting, the opportunity to receive appropriations through Casey’s office came up. After some good work by Dr. Carrico, Business Director Jill Spence, and Building and Grounds Director Mike Fagley, we were able to apply for $535,000.00 to make improvements to the athletic complex behind the high school.
“The senator’s office has a history of working on accessibility issues and, if selected, we will be looking to use these funds to improve accessibility to our field, new ADA restrooms, ADA seating areas, ADA parking beside the field, and a solid walkway around the field.
“The appropriations are for the fiscal year 2022, so we expect to know by the end of the year if we will receive a disbursement.”