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BOE votes to approve stadium plan

Wimer Field’s future unclear

ELKINS — A new era will begin this fall for Elkins High School’s football program, as the school’s football facility will no longer be historic Wimer Stadium.

The Randolph County Board of Education voted Tuesday evening to approve a resolution enabling the county school system to enter into a lease purchase agreement with Citizens Bank of West Virginia.

According to documentation provided by county officials, the loan will provide funding for new bleachers to be built for EHS athletic programs, including football, baseball and band. As part of the bleacher project, county officials will be relocating the home of EHS football from Wimer Stadium to Elkins High School’s current location at Kennedy Drive off the Beverly Pike Five-lane.

Melodee Price, board member, said “it is time” to relocate the field to the Elkins High School complex.

“It is sad that we came to this point as far as Wimer not being used, but it has been over 25 years since the high school has been up on Kennedy Drive. I feel like it is time that we move the football stadium up to where it needs to be,” Price said. “Of course, it made sense that it was in south Elkins when the high school was there, but now that the high school has been gone for a quarter of a century, it just makes more sense to have the football stadium and the high school together on the same property.”

In addition, funding will be included to complete bleacher projects for Tygarts Valley Middle-High School football, TVMHS baseball/softball and Elkins Middle School softball.

“I’m excited to see this progress because we know that Elkins High wasn’t able to play football at home this season, and we want to make sure that they’re able to play this season,” Price said. “We do not want what happened at Elkins High happening at Tygarts Valley, because their bleachers are in bad shape too, and we do not want them to be next.”

Brad Smith, director of finance for Randolph County Schools, offered a presentation to the board highlighting the steps taken to secure financing to replace outdoor athletic bleachers for the school system.

Smith explained that Country Roads Leasing is a company located in West Virginia that helps counties and schools secure funds locally for projects such as the upcoming athletic facility upgrades in Randolph County.

“What we did was — (EHS athletic director) Ross Ware took Stadium Solutions around to the different schools where the bleachers are going to be placed,” Smith said.

Stadium Solutions Inc. is a company located in Pennsylvania that offers technical support through all phases of bleacher projects, including designing, engineering and construction.

Smith noted Stadium Solutions gave an estimate of approximately $957,000 to complete outdoor bleacher projects at the above listed facilities. The lease purchase with Citizens Bank will be for a 10-year period for up to $1,140,000. The payments will be $128,720.43 per year.

Furthermore, as part of the effort to complete these projects, the county joined the Keystone Purchasing Network, which is a cooperative purchasing program where projects are per-bid. There was no cost to the county to join this network, Smith noted.

Amanda Smith, board member, said this is a first step in the process to address athletic facilities in Randolph County.

“We view this as kind of step one in the process. The county dedicates (funding) to the schools, and specifically, with Elkins High as a way to get that sports complex project started,” she said. “The plan is to allow Elkins High athletic department and boosters to move forward with more fundraising to proceed into phase two, phase three. This is really just the first step.”

Superintendent Debbie Schmidlen said county officials will be meeting with architects next week to discuss further plans for other athletic facilities in the county, including the TVHS gymnasium.

“The architect is going to come and meet with us next Thursday so that we can talk about future plans, and the gym is on that list of things to talk about to see what we can do — whether it’s a (School Building Authority) project, if it needs to be part of a bigger plan in the CEFP.”

Ware said the estimated date of completion for the EHS bleacher project is Sept. 24, and the first home football game for EHS is set to be played Oct. 1 against Grafton. In addition to other facilities, such as the TVHS gymnasium, Ware said the condition of the track at EHS will also be addressed in the future.

Last fall the bleachers at Wimer Stadium, the Elkins Middle School softball field, and the Tigers Valley High School baseball field were deemed unsafe for spectators by West Virginia Board of Risk and Insurance Management (BRIM).

The EHS Tigers football team played no home games last fall, going on the road for every contest.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Lisa Wamsley, board president, inquired about maintenance and upkeep of the bleachers after their warranty expires.

In response, Joseph Arbogast, assistant superintendent for RCS, elaborated on ways to maintain the facilities, adding the county will be requesting a yearly inspection by BRIM.

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