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Posted: 01/29/14

School board says bond
required for athletic sites

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      Romeo Community School officials are considering a new bond to support current or new athletic sites.
       The Board of Education discussed a potential partnership with Washington Township and Total Soccer at its Jan. 21 meeting that could lead to improved sports facilities for Romeo.
       Washington Township is building a recreational center on 13 out of 200 acres of its land that would feature pools, gyms, tracks, fitness centers and community rooms. The land is located at 30 Mile Road east of M-53.
       At the same time, Total Soccer is purchasing 80 acres of that land to build a sports complex, which includes a lighted turf outdoor field, 21 full-sized grass outdoor fields, two full-size indoor football/soccer fields and eight indoor volleyball courts.
       Total Soccer has optional plans for a 5,000-seat sports arena on eight acres, and approached the district to see if it would be interested in being a partner.
       Trustee Anita Banach is leading the subcommittee that is discussing the sports complex with Washington and Total Soccer. She said no matter which way the district decides to go it would require a bond, though the amount would depend on if partnerships are formed.
       "No matter what, if we partner, if we lease, if we borrow, it takes money, it's going to take money which we don't have in the operating budget to do anything more than we're doing now," she said.
       Bond discussions could take several directions. Banach said the district could remain at Barnabo Field, work with Washington or Total Soccer on the arena or even purchase land at the sports complex for the arena.
       Treasurer Gus Demas said the first idea when discussing the complex shouldn't be to ask for bonds, saying continual bonds have diminishing returns.
       "This is a big project, and I would definitely like to hear what the community has to say on this type of proposal," he said.
       Banach agreed that before a bond is considered the district should gain input from the community on whether a bond would support the complex or improve the district's facilities.
       Secretary Joe Fortuna said the board should also determine the amount of revenue a partnership would bring compared to how much it would cost to invest in the district's facilities.
       "That investment needs to have a return on investment back to these students, not to the township, not to Total Soccer," he said.
       Athletic Director Greg Brynaert said the discussions with Total Soccer indicated revenue would be shared with all stakeholders if a stadium is constructed.
       Aside from the arena, Banach said the district would be interested in the use of the facility's pool, as the high school's pool is "physically not capable" of handling the current level of activities.
       "In terms of partnerships, we saw a much more yellow light, closer to a green light, on thinking about ways in which we can reduce our operating dollars in the pool and provide a better aquatics program," Banach said.
       Other ideas included use of the facilities to hold games and practices. Banach said costs are being determined and will be reviewed at the next sports complex discussions on Feb. 10.
       Board President Ed Sosnoski said having lived in the Romeo area for 20 years he has felt embarrassed about the conditions of the athletic sites.
       "They're not a fine wine, they're getting worse and worse each year," he said.
       He didn't believe the district should wait until 2015 to pursue investments into athletic facilities, and asked that discussions continue with Washington and Total Soccer.
       "I feel it is imperative for us to get a list together of what this district needs athletic-wise, inform the public about it and go for a bond in November," he said. "It's time to put some money into our athletic sites."


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