City sports complex to undergo changes

Jon Pic

The City of El Dorado, USD 490 and Butler Community College met with Sandy Hull, a consultant, to discuss the feasibility of upgrading the city’s sports complex – either by creating a new facility or making much-needed changes to the current Galen Blackmore football and track stadium.

Here’s a breakdown of how Hull’s meeting with USD 490 Board of Education went.

Hull was introduced by Sue Givens, superintendent.

“She is the person that’s going to try to bring some consensus to what the community is hoping we will do with the stadium,” Givens said.

“From conversations I’ve had, this is something the community has talked about for a long time,” Hull said. “Hopefully we can bring some focus to it and move it off of its mark and actually get something done in the near future that you will all be extremely proud of as a school and as a community.”

Hull currently lives in Omaha, Neb., though she’s originally from Wichita. After graduating from Wichita State University and earning a graduate degree from University Kansas, Hull said she’s worked many years in event planning.

One of her favorite jobs, however, was running a PGA Tour event “for many, many years” in Knoxville, Tenn. Working with the Knoxville city and county recreation departments, she helped to form a foundation that worked to raise money.

“A lot of parks systems are starting to do that as tax dollars aren’t keeping up with the needs of the community,” Hull said. “Lots of alternative funding out there and I’m sure that’s something we’ll start talking about when it comes to building or renovating the facility, whatever it turns out to be.”

She told the school board she was looking to get an idea of what each entity had in mind for the stadium.

“Obviously you all have different perspectives,” she said. “What I’m trying to do is just gather information at this point.”

She advised them to think about who would like to be nominated for an appointment to a six-member special committee to help usher this project along. Hull asked for one member from the BOE as well as a community member who could represent the goals of the schools.

Chris Locke, board member, volunteered for the position. The board discussed several community members, but opted to save a nomination for a later date.

Hull said she was interested in interviewing all entities that would be affected by the stadium project.

“Whether it’s individuals such as the athletic directors ... as well as potentially little league football ... who actually use the facility, talk with them and say ‘Well, what do you need? What’s your Pie in the Sky and what can you get by with and everything in between,’” Hull said. “Just to find out other people’s ideas on what this can be.

“I challenge you to keep an open mind. You’ll find there are other desires out there. Maybe there’s a more passive, park-like setting ... or possibly a skate park, just maybe something that the community needs and you can take this project and kind of wrap some other things around it that maybe help sell the project.”

Hull asked the board to consider its objectives in regard to the new facility.

“I think we need an upgrade, not so much for the El Dorado High School football team, but just for our community,” Locke said. “The image. If we do it, I think we need to build it so it will enable our community to host some events that we haven’t been able to do.”

Board member Bernie Spradling said the new facility should also address long-range needs of the community. The board also felt the stadium project should be sensitive to history, leave room for growth and be mindful of the school board’s commitment to education.

“It took so much work to pass the bond issue for a high school that was in dismal shape,” said board member Jim Waugh. “And that’s our core job.”

“We as a board need to be mindful that we don’t want the perception out there that we are pushing this project and see it as a priority over some of the other things that we have,” Spradling said.

“This is our opportunity to piggy back off some other entities,” Locke said. “We’re going to have to do something. We’re never going to get the community college and the city to help with our elementary schools. If we can piggy back something, we would be economically stupid not to do it.”

“We just need to make sure the public understands what we’re doing and how we’re doing it,” said board member Leon Leachman. “Selling this one is going to be a major, major issue.”

El Dorado Times