(Thanks to Rob Stroud and the Journal Gazette & Times-Courier for allowing us to publish this story)

Board approves Mattoon High School sports facilities upgrade


Rob Stroud, Journal Gazette & Times-Courier

MATTOON — The Mattoon school board approved plans on Wednesday for a $4.4 million upgrade project for the Mattoon High School's football and track complex, plus the campus baseball field, soccer field and tennis courts.

The school district's administration recommended this action after the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity recently gave the "green light" to use a $2 million grant for the project. Superintendent Tim Condron said they will present a financing proposal at the board's July 13 meeting for the project's other $2.4 million, plus other district capital improvement needs.

"It is a piece of what we see as a larger project to invest in the future for our students and the community," Condron said during the board's special meeting Wednesday afternoon. He said the district can fund the capital improvements, without property tax revenue, instead using the county schools facility sales tax that voters approved in 2016.

Joe Schuit with Byrne & Jones Sports Construction, which is serving as a consultant on the project, reported to the board that the completed renderings for the project have been reviewed and the city of Mattoon has given its preliminary approval to the campus drainage design concept.

The superintendent said the high school campus area has storm water drainage issues, noting that the lower level JROTC classroom has been flooded on three occasions in recent years. He said the athletic facilities project's drainage improvements will help alleviate flooding in that area.

Condron said the district has opted to include the baseball field, soccer field and tennis courts in the project along with the Gaines Field football and track complex to best utilize construction crews while they are already on site in 2021-2022.

"It is more efficient for construction to be able to hop from one field to the other," Schuit said.

Condron added that board member Gary Kepley, who was absent at Tuesday's meeting, has worked closely on this project and has advised that the longer the district waits to improve the athletic facilities, the more it will have to pay to complete the work.

The project's scope includes installing new synthetic turf for the football field with a shock pad, plus new synthetic turf for the baseball infield and the soccer field. It also includes a new backstop and tension netting for the baseball field, a new running surface along with other track and field improvements, and tennis court crack filling and resurfacing. Lighting and electrical system upgrades are part of the project, as well.

Schuit said plans call for the baseball field to be ready for that team to use in time for the next season in the spring.

David Vieth, athletic director for Mattoon High School, said he is arranging alternative locations for teams that will not be able to use their facilities during the construction project. He said this includes asking if the varsity football team can play locally at Eastern Illinois University's O'Brien Field, taking the junior varsity football team on the road, and having the tennis teams play at park courts in Mattoon.

"With the other sports, I'm going to have to get creative," Vieth said.