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Armstrong athletic complex costs exceed anticipated total for project

| Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, 12:11 a.m.

An athletic complex at the new Armstrong Junior-Senior High School will cost more than district officials anticipated.

Armstrong School District officials are reviewing a low bid from Altoona-based L.S. Fiore Inc., which includes options ranging from $9 million to $10.6 million for the new school's athletic complex.

It is $1 to $2 million higher than officials expected, board President Joe Close said.

The complex includes a 3,500-seat football stadium with artificial turf, a press box and eight-lane running track, baseball and softball fields, two areas for track and field events, six lighted tennis courts, a concession stand and field house, a soccer field and a parking lot big enough to accommodate 500 to 600 cars.

The company offered several methods to cut costs, such as cutting visitors' bleachers at the football stadium or swapping out ornamental fencing for chain link, said Brian Hayes, an architect from L.R. Kimball Architects and Engineering in Ebensburg.

Several factors drove up the cost, such as the site's mountainous terrain, a complex stormwater management system and a need for crews to work on the site through the winter, Hayes said.

“The bid is high, and it's really a perfect storm of factors driving the cost,” Hayes said. “It's a complex site that requires a lot of grading, and a lot of retaining walls would need built to keep things in place.”

Hayes said the project can be accepted in phases, with the $9.1 million stadium being the largest expense.

The district opened bids in June and included a 120-day hold on bids, giving them until Oct. 13 to take action. If the district accepts the bids, they would have to have a method of financing lined up, Hayes said.

District officials expect to open the new school at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year and hope to open at least a portion of the athletic complex at the same time.

“We split up the cost because we worry about the timing and the district's ability to come up with the funding,” Hayes said. “We'll need to really mobilize as soon as possible if we want to get this done in time.”

The complex was not part of the plans for the $55 million school, which will accommodate 1,775 students from Kittanning High School, Kittanning Middle School and Ford City High School.

The Armstrong School District Community Foundation launched a capital campaign in June to raise enough money to build the facility. It is meeting with potential donors, Superintendent Stan Chapp said.

Before accepting or rejecting bids, Chapp said officials will meet with the foundation to discuss their funding sources.

“Their committee has really been working diligently with donors and, at some point soon, they'll be able to have some numbers,” Chapp said. “Then we'll have a better idea of where we are in the funding process.”

Close said the district has not discussed using a loan to cover the cost of the complex and using money from the foundation to pay it off. The board also has not broached where sports teams would play if the complex isn't built, he added.

Close said the district may consider building some of the lower-cost amenities, such as the softball and baseball fields, first, while the foundation continues working toward raising enough to build the stadium.

“It's a nice facility and very accommodating — it's the type we're only used to seeing in other districts, not here,” Close said. “It all comes down to how bad we want it and how the donations come in.”

School board member Larry Robb said he is in favor of sending the plans back out for more bids.

“With donors covering this or not, it's overpriced,” Robb said.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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