Higher construction bids are complicating the efforts of Lawrence school board members to make sure the new athletic stadiums at the city’s two high schools are equitable.
Free State High School received a major gift from an anonymous donor in 2009 that helped build a facility near the stadium for locker rooms, restrooms and concession stands.
District officials say they are trying to make the Lawrence High stadium nice as well, but that will come with a cost. The low bid for two new buildings to house restrooms and concession stands at the track and football stadium came in at $675,000. The original budget was $400,000.
“One thing that we knew that would come out is, obviously, there would be additional cost in that from what was originally budgeted for the facility,” board member Mark Bradford said. “So we’re having to look to make judgment on whether or not the additional costs are appropriate to this inequity issue.”
Bradford at last week’s meeting said board members created the inequity when they accepted the Free State donation. Board members did award the $675,000 bid to Lawrence-based First Construction, 5-1, with Marlene Merrill absent and Vanessa Sanburn opposed to it.
Sanburn said the board should have waited to approve the project until it had bids for adding a press box at Lawrence High.
She said the district is in a tough position but she’s also worried about the higher costs because several elementary buildings need repairs.
Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer, said bids are coming in higher because the $400,000 estimate was based on the restroom facilities being lower-quality modular type buildings. Construction costs are also increasing compared with a year ago.
An LHS booster group is interested in raising funds to add to the stadium, possibly a version of the arch at Haskell Stadium, where LHS played football for decades.
Harwood said the district is working with its contractor to try to reduce costs. For example, board members actually approved a version of the LHS restroom and concession buildings that will cost a little less than $675,000.
“In trying to kind of balance and finish the stadiums and help them be the really great places they are, the costs were more than we anticipated partly because we changed what we were looking at doing,” Harwood said.
Board members in 2008 approved more than $18 million in work for athletic stadiums and fields at both high schools. To date, the board has allocated about $15 million to the project, Harwood said. The LHS press box will put the total cost at more than $15 million, he said.
“These will be better facilities in the long run than the modular ones we were looking at. It’s not just crazy athletics over elementary,” board President Scott Morgan said. “This is a thing that our kids use, our community uses, and I think we would do it in a decent manner for a reasonable approach.”