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Apollo-Ridge School District plans for football field advance

| Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010

Apollo-Ridge School District directors on Tuesday approved preliminary construction plans for the $3.5 million football stadium that will replace Owens Field.

As early as next month, school directors will decide how to finance the project, which they hope will be completed by October.

The financing options involve a "wrap-around" bond issue that district officials described as budget-friendly, or a "level" bond issue that involves steeper annual payments but costs less in the long run.

A financial advisor with Janney Montgomery Scott told school directors that the wrap-around would involve annual payments of about $160,000. It would cost the district about $3.65 million to pay off the bond, she said.

The other option would require annual payments of about $260,000. It would shave about $500,000 off the cost of repaying the bond.

School board President Gregory Primm said both bond options carry a 20-year term.

Primm reiterated the board's position that building a new stadium won't create a need for a tax increase in the 2010-11 school year.

"If there is a tax increase, it won't be because of this project," he said, implying that other factors could create the need for a tax hike.

Primm said school directors couldn't rule out future tax hikes resulting from the project.

School directors plan to refinance one of the district's three existing bond issues in hopes of saving about $100,000.

Apollo-Ridge has more than $11 million in bond debt, Primm said. That figure doesn't include the proposed bond issue for the football stadium.

Meanwhile, officials with HHSDR Architects/Engineers told school directors they hope for construction to begin in May.

The field and bleachers, which will be built where Owens Field sits, should be complete by the end of August, the engineers said.

Finishing the field house will take longer — carrying the project into October, they said.

Primm said district officials hope to have the second half of the upcoming football season played at the new field.

District officials are working with the WPIAL to ensure the first five games of the season are away games for the Vikings, Primm said.

With the exception of the existing concession stand, everything at Owens Field will be replaced, district officials said.

The stadium will seat about 1,800 visitors, according to the preliminary design. It will feature two entrances, ticket booths and concession stands.

A scoreboard and flag pole will be built.

In addition, the field will be able to accommodate soccer games.

While Owens Field sloped about 5 feet from one end to the other, the new field will be crowned, the engineers said.

School directors decided last year to build a stadium because, they said, too many unknowns could factor into the cost of renovating Owens Field.

About 20 residents attended last night's board meeting, although none spoke about the project.

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