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Stadium plan takes a new ‘turn’

Sometimes, when plans change, people call it a 180-degree turn.
But Elizabethton City school officials needed only 90 degrees to sideline a series of potential problems.
After a trip back to the drawing board with the Elizabethton High School stadium plans, school system officials have developed a new site plan they believe answers all the concerns presented by the Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission.
Assistant Superintendent Richard VanHuss said that while the planning commission had approved the general site plan on a 4-3 vote, there has been “quite a bit” of discussion about whether there would be adequate parking. He also said there have been concerns about student safety where students would be pulling out from the planned new parking lot onto a congested Jason Witten Way.
“In light of that information and budget concerns of the new parking lot, we decided to take another look at the plans,” VanHuss said.
As a way of addressing those issues, VanHuss said the stadium plans have been rotated 90 degrees, so the end zones would face east and west instead of north and south. The stadium would also be moved 250 feet to the west, out of the student parking lot and into a grassy area and baseball field.
The altered plans, he believes, will answer multiple concerns and issues.
VanHuss said budgeting for the new parking lot on the west side of the EHS campus behind the building led to increased costs because of environmental regulations. However, by moving the stadium, the need for the new parking lot was eliminated.
The main focus was on the parking and student safety, he added.
The plan revisions would also increase the number of parking spaces from 460 to more than 600.
“The changes essentially mean the stadium will not mess with the student parking lot,” VanHuss said. “The northwest corner that curves will be straightened out. The driving range will stay and we believe that we can park around 150 cars in that area on game nights. This will mean there will be more than 600 parking spaces on campus and that will take some of the pressure off of the surrounding property owners.”
During the planning commission meeting, commissioners were concerned that 460 spaces were not enough for football game nights and had asked the school system to find a parking plan that provided closer to 800 parking spaces.
Another concern presented during the meeting was that the new stadium plan didn’t have enough overflow space for the most heavily attended games, such as the one between EHS and Science Hill High School.
To address that, VanHuss said dirt removed during construction would be used to build an earthen berm at the western end of the field. The berm would provide an angled surface to sit on to see the field, and a flattened top would provide extra space for people who bring lawn chairs to sit in.
Moving the stadium will take the school’s baseball field, but VanHuss said school leaders had discussed that and had found solutions to the field’s use.
VanHuss said the EHS baseball teams used that field four times in the last season with most of the games being played at the Twins field. He said an agreement was made with the Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Department to allow the EHS teams to use the Twins field for all games.
A youth league uses the field during the summer, but those games will be relocated to the T.A. Dugger Junior High School fields, he said. Also, the lights from the EHS field would be transferred to the junior high fields.
The new stadium plans will be presented as part of the October planning commission agenda.
In other action, the school board approved purchasing new window curtains for the T.A. Dugger auditorium to match the new stage curtains at a cost of $14,500.
The board also approved an emergency replacement of the loop bypass and chill isolation valves for the heating and cooling system at the junior high for $20,994.
A contract with auditing firm Blackburn, Childers and Steagall was also approved, along with the first reading of policies on charter schools, tobacco-free schools, asbestos management and extended contracts.