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Supportive trustees hear plans for new stadium, ask for more info

South Boston NewsSouth Boston News
An artist's rendering of the new stadium; below, the bleachers at Tuck Dillard Stadium
SoVaNow.com / May 15, 2018
The Halifax County School Board voiced support for building an $8.89 million replacement for outdated Tuck Dillard Stadium, but they split on the best way to move forward with the project at their meeting Monday night in South Boston.

After hearing Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg offer what School Board chair Joe Gasperini called a “tremendous presentation” on the proposed facility, trustees debated whether to commit immediately to funding roughly a quarter share of the cost, or wait first to see how a new stadium fits together with an even larger project — renovation or reconstruction of Halifax County High School.

“I’m in favor of doing something about the stadium,” said ED-8 trustee Walter Potts, who ultimately prevailed with a request to have the School Board wait before making an upfront financial commitment. “If you’re not familiar with the ‘Halifax rule,’ that’s why we don’t get anything over there [Tuck Dillard Stadium] any more.”

It was a reference to the 1991 championship season of the HCHS “Wrecking Crew” football team, which brought the state title to Halifax County — and also prompted a Virginia High School League requirement on the types of sporting facilities that could host future VSHL championship events. Lineburg alluded to the long-ago backlash over the condition of Tuck Dillard Stadium to argue for moving forward with the project now.

“There’s something about pride — your school pride, pride in what you have — a sense of pride for the community [that] is something you can’t put a price tag on,” he said. Lineburg added, “If we kick the can down the road for four more years, it’s going to be $12 million.”

But while Potts said he agreed with the need to build a new stadium, he balked at a proposal by Gasperini to put the School Board on record in support of a 10-year, $200,000 annual commitment towards the capital expenditure. Gasperini said such a pledge by the School Board would be necessary to attract outside dollars for the project — from business sponsors, community groups and individuals, and public entities other than the School Board and Board of Supervisors, including the Towns of Halifax and South Boston and the Industrial Development Authority.

“When you add those up and the community comes together, I think we might be pleasantly surprised by the amount of money we raise,” said Gasperini. “But first, the School Board has to step up.”

Potts and ED-3 trustee Sandra Garner-Coleman voiced skepticism, however, that outside funding for the stadium would be so readily available, and they both expressed concern over the possible impact of a $200,000 annual commitment on the schools' instructional budget. “I’ve lived here for 25 years and you start talking money around here…” said Garner-Coleman, shaking her head. “We’ve had problems getting our academic programs funded.”

Freddie Edmunds, ED-5, chimed in, “We definitely need a new stadium, there’s no doubt in my mind about that. But you’ve got to ask a lot of questions before you spend $8.9 million.”

Potts suggested that a new stadium should be folded into a voter referendum to build a new high school — an undertaking that could cost $80 million, he said. But that idea drew a retort from Gasperini: “I think doing nothing [now], and having it as part of an overall school project, is a mistake.”

Potts also objected to taking any vote to commit the School Board financially to the project after only that evening seeing the artist’s renderings and hearing about the stadium design for the first time from Lineburg: “None of us here have talked about this,” said Potts. “How can I say we’re going to do that [build the stadium?] I don’t even know what it is.”

On a motion by ED-1 trustee Orey Hill, trustees voted unanimously to direct Lineburg to compile more information, including possible sources of stadium funding, and bring his findings back for a School Board work session on June 25 for further discussion.

Lineburg used a PowerPoint presentation to highlight the facility’s design. The stadium plan has been developed by Moseley Architects, the firm that also is conducting a full-scale facilities study for county schools. As envisioned, the new stadium would seat 4,000, up from the current 3,000-person capacity of Tuck Dillard, with an artificial turf field that could accommodate up to 250 events per year.

Lineburg said the replacement would serve as “a county stadium,” available for use by youth league and sporting programs including football and travel soccer. It could also be a venue for concerts, festivals, band competitions and various other uses. Among other benefits, the new stadium could help foster economic development and increase tourism and visitation in Halifax County, the superintendent argued.

By contrast, Tuck Dillard Stadium is crumbling with age and was wrongly designed when it was built in the mid-1960s. Lineburg noted the overhead press box is in especially poor condition — in an accompanying video presentation by HCHS students, one likened the press box to a “singlewide” floating over the stadium and called it “nasty.”

The poor state of Tuck Dillard Stadium “is a long-term problem and source of community discontent,” said Lineburg.

The meeting of the School Board took place at South Boston Elementary, the latest of the county schools to host monthly trustees meetings.

This story will be updated.

Plans for $8.8 million stadium to be unveiled

Lineburg floats possibility of public-private partnership to pay for replacement facility

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Halifax Co. does not have the money. Spend a few thousand to fix up the stadium we got now. Cut the supt. pay by about 25% for a few years an put that towards the stadium

Comments

Well it is about time and thank the Superintendent for at least advancing the idea of a new stadium. Nothing has been done on upkeep or repair by the school or school board. Any improvements have come from the hard working Booster Club parents, scoreboard, new turf, underground watering system. If you are going to have athletics something needs to be done now. I like this whole idea and half of the ag. building could be converted to locker rooms and equipment storage. Before Larry Roller left Halifax for the same job in Charlotte County, he had this project at the top of his list. It kills me when I speak to other coaches and athletic directors and they refer to the Halifax Rule that was written by the VHSL as a result of our facilities in 1991 and no repairs have been done since. The students that play athletics and the coaches that work for almost nothing deserve better.

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Internet Fund Raising. You may not get all 8 million, but alot of Halifax Alum would donate to a GoFundMe site. If legal with the county and state, set this up now. There are alot of people from Halifax that have been touched in a positive way by the coaches, administrators, and fellow players of Blue Comet Athletics. I will bet somewhere up there there is a smile on the face of Coleman Starnes, Tom Berry and others that have passed and here on earth Ron Ramsey and always the legend Fred Palmore and anyone else that has participated in Comet Athletics.

Comments

And just who was in charge of facility maintenance in 1991, i wonder who? There is a need for new facilities but this is a case of getting the cart before the horse. There needs to be a master plan of development for new facilities. IF the high school gets replaced wouldn't it make more sense to build a totally new stadium along with it? There hasn't been a dominant state championship comets team like that 1991 team sadly.


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