Score this one an E-$300,000.
The Lawrence school district is bracing to spend an unexpected $300,000 to comply with building codes regarding installation of permanent seating for baseball at Free State and Lawrence high schools.
The district already is spending nearly $500,000 to install bleachers at the two stadiums and other athletics venues at the two schools, but district administrators had been unaware of the need to install permanent restrooms serving the fields.
That all changed in recent weeks, as the bleachers were being installed. Permanent seating triggers a need for permanent restrooms within 500 feet, according to the city’s building code, and such facilities do not exist at either site.
So now district administrators are going back to their master plans, meeting with architects and contacting potential donors — all to put together construction plans for next summer. Until then, expect temporary, portable toilets to be on site for the spring season.
The district anticipates spending no more than $150,000 at each site, using money available for capital improvement projects such as replacing boilers, repairing roofs, resurfacing parking lots and the like throughout all district buildings and schools.
Adding restrooms at the fields isn’t on the district’s properties list, which envisions $10.8 million worth of work to be financed by a budget with only $2.6 million in discretionary funding for the coming year.
“When we look at this, it’s completing the commitment that was made several years ago for the completion of these athletics complexes,” said Kyle Hayden, who started this past summer as the district’s chief operations officer. “That means seeing it through, to meet the requirements that the city has. That’s just a responsibility that the administration and the board want to adhere to and, again, see the project through.”
Construction of the complexes started in 2008, with plans to spend $9 million for building on-campus football stadiums and making other upgrades for outdoor sports. By 2010, the bills had increased to at least $15 million.
Donations helped cover some expenses at Free State, including expansion of a concessions building and other material upgrades at the stadium. At Lawrence High a donor group — LHS Building on Traditions — has been raising money to add ticket booths and make other upgrades, while the district has financed construction of new concessions stands.
Bleachers always were in the plans for baseball and soccer fields at both schools, plus softball at Free State. The Lawrence school board approved those plans earlier this year.
But the plans did not include bathrooms for baseball at either school, something that became evident when city inspectors did the math and determined the permanent bleachers at the Lawrence High field were 600 feet from the district’s available restrooms, inside the Adult Learning Center, formerly Centennial School.
That’s too far, especially with fans looking for alternatives such as cutting through a fence to get into an adjacent shopping area that is home to Panera Bread, DonDon and Mr. Goodcents.
“As long as it was just the athletics facility, and kids were out there playing and a few parents sitting around in lawn chairs, it was kind of: They’d need to figure that out on their own,” said Barry Walthall, the city’s building safety manager. “As soon as they go to permanent seating, part of the requirement for permanent seating is to provide the plumbing fixtures. That’s to avoid people ducking over to neighboring businesses or whatever.”
Hayden said that the district likely would build permanent restrooms between the baseball field and tennis courts at Lawrence High, and between the baseball and softball fields at Free State. Each building also likely will include a small concessions area, a ticket booth and storage space.
The district plans to defray its costs somewhat by using money offered by LHS Building on Traditions, which already planned to finance construction of a ticket booth for baseball at Lawrence High. There’s also hope that the Lawrence Tennis Association or even the city of Lawrence might be able to contribute money, because the restrooms at Lawrence High also would be available for members of the public who use the tennis courts.
“We’re exploring all options to help with funding,” said Rick Doll, district superintendent.