The Firebirds will have a place to roost near their football field come fall.
The Lawrence school board accepted a donation from an anonymous donor at a special meeting Monday night. In return, the board agreed to build a field-level facility that contains locker rooms, restrooms and concessions at Free State.
The donation will cover any expenses over the $400,000 allotted for restrooms, concessions and storage at Free State. There was talk of extending halftime for home football games at the school because of the long walk to locker room facilities located in the school. The contract with the donor and contractor will also include converting an outbuilding on the northern side of the field into a restroom facility.
“This was a need at Free State,” said school board President Scott Morgan. “To leave money like this on the table in this budget climate, I think it just would be irresponsible.”
The board had already approved $250,000 for locker room renovations at Lawrence High’s west gym. While equality between the two schools is an ongoing issue, board Vice President Rich Minder said it’s something that can be corrected over time if the need arises.
“The public benefits in a large enough way that the downside of a possible inequity between the two ... doesn’t outweigh the overall benefit,” Minder said.
Free State Principal Ed West was on hand to hear the donation’s fate and is happy with the outcome.
“It’s just going to add to the ambiance of the place and the functionality of it,” West said. “The kids can take pride in it. It’ll be wonderful.”
Chief Operations Officer Frank Harwood said the contract currently being discussed says that if the donor pulls out, the building will be finished as specified and the liability will go to the contractor. The district also has control over the aesthetic side.
“It’s the school district’s building,” Harwood said. “The school district has to decide what they want the building to look like when it’s done.”
The contract also says the building must be done by Sept. 18, the first home game for the Firebirds.
Lawrence High update
Lawrence High also has $400,000 allotted for restrooms, storage and concessions at its site. The board wants to place four buildings, one at each corner of the football field, for those purposes.
The board told Harwood to go with pre-engineered buildings that cost a little over $100,000 each. However, the buildings do have to be put together and construction is an additional cost and will go over the allotted funds.
“There is money in the construction budget that would cover that,” Harwood said.
The two buildings on the north end corners will include restrooms and concessions. The two south end corner buildings will be just restrooms.
“We went with the one we think the neighbors will appreciate better in terms of the way it looks as well as, obviously, everybody else,” Morgan said. “In the long run, it costs you more if you get cheap on it.”
The restrooms and concessions will probably be done in early October.