Lawrence High School football player Taylor Coleman was pretty encouraged to see construction crews working Monday afternoon on the site that’s supposed to become the school’s new football field.
He looks at the site frequently with big dreams of playing at a brand new stadium during his senior year next year.
“I’m hoping for a big stadium with lights and a nice field,” said Coleman.
A judge paved the way Monday morning for major construction to move forward on the new football field and other sports facilities at Lawrence High School, despite a lawsuit filed by a group of neighbors who oppose the project. Douglas County District Judge Michael Malone lifted a temporary restraining order and denied the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary injunction.
“We have flexibility now,” Lawrence Public Schools superintendent Randy Weseman said in an interview after the ruling.
But the ruling doesn’t mean lights and bleachers will go up right away, he said. “We’re still participating in a lawsuit,” Weseman said.
The request for a temporary injunction came as part of a civil lawsuit that was filed earlier this month by Centennial Neighborhood Association and several neighbors to prevent the school district from moving forward with the project at LHS, 1901 La.
Neighbors claim their property values would decline and their property would be adversely impacted by the project, which also calls for adding eight tennis courts and baseball, softball and soccer fields at the high school, or the nearby Lawrence Virtual School site, 2145 La., previously Centennial Elementary School.
An attorney for the school district, Brad Finkeldei, has said that the neighbors are speculating and that damages could be awarded later if the facilities actually caused problems. The football field would be built within 75 feet of residential property, a court document said.
No trial date has been set.
Ron Schneider, an attorney for the neighbors, said he wasn’t discouraged by Malone’s ruling against the injunction and that his group will be proceeding with litigation.
Meanwhile, the school district will proceed with installing turf at the sites but will wait until the lawsuit is settled before turning the fields into competition sites — which includes adding lights and bleachers.
“We’ll start to proceed through this, with at the same time being respectful of the legal proceedings that are occurring,” Weseman said.
Similar field improvements also are in the works at Free State High School, 4700 Overland Drive, but are not included as part of the lawsuit.
Weseman said with the lawsuit and with the weather turning colder, the district has to continuously manipulate the order in which the projects will be completed.
The superintendent said he’s optimistic all the projects, budgeted to cost between $8 million and $10 million, will be complete by mid-August, with the football and baseball fields finished by mid-February.
“I’m really confident that we’ll prevail at the end,” Weseman said of the lawsuit.
As for Coleman, he’s remaining hopeful he’ll be part of the first football team to compete at the school’s new stadium.
“I just wait to see,” he said.