VALDOSTA -- Tear down Bazemore-Hyder Stadium. Rebuild it on the current property. Have the stadium run by a joint city-university authority. If not, Valdosta State University builds its own on-campus football/soccer stadium.
It's the same discussion various groups have had in Valdosta for months, if not years. So what's new in what Dr. Ronald Zaccari proposed Monday in his State of the University address?
-- After rebuilding Bazemore-Hyder Stadium, use the remaining property for parking used not only for stadium events but Valdosta State commuter-student parking.
n Issue long-term bonds to immediately pay for relocation of the current Valdosta school offices on the property, which is bordered by Ann Street, Brookwood Drive, Slater Street and Williams Street, then construction of the stadium and the parking lots.
-- With the construction of parking, corporate boxes and a press box at the new Bazemore-Hyder Stadium, the university would pay for a larger share of the project's $10-$15 million costs. "Maybe we'd pay 60 percent," Zaccari said.
-- And if not the Bazemore-Hyder site, VSU would build its own stadium not on the former Sunset Park site as previously discussed, but on the Reames Field property -- between the College of Education and the physical education complex -- currently used as a football practice field.
What's also new? Zaccari himself. The stadium issue is one of the first things he heard about when he took over presidency in January.
"I don't have all the specific understanding of the history," Zaccari said. "We know there have been stumbling blocks every step of the way."
But he's in agreement with his predecessor, Dr. Hugh C. Bailey, and many other officials.
"We can be in charge of our own destiny and have our own stadium," Zaccari said. "What's wrong with that? The city doesn't need three stadiums of similar size."
"I agree with him. We certainly don't need three stadiums in Valdosta and Lowndes County," said Valdosta mayor James Rainwater, who attended Zaccari's speech. "There's an opportunity here that's very unique. We can have one of the finest football stadiums for high school football in Georgia plus provide Valdosta State with a stadium that all can be proud of.
"Football is certainly important in Valdosta. But soccer and other activities that can be on the football field can mean an awful lot for putting heads in beds. It can help to make Valdosta truly a regional city.
"I'm excited about the opportunity. I certainly applaud his efforts. He's headed in the right direction, and I'll support him."
Zaccari plans an Aug. 22 meeting with city, university, school and state officials to discuss the options.
"I'm going to outline a number of options," he said. "One, we don't want to participate in renovating the stadium. We don't want to put any money into that project.
"If they're willing to build a new stadium, we'll talk. We want the related parking and work out an agreement for the replacement costs."
Sam Allen, Valdosta City Schools superintendent, confirmed he had been asked in a letter from Zaccari to attend the Aug. 22 meeting.
"He said they'd present a new proposal, but there was no indication of what that plan would be," said Allen, who first learned of Zaccari's speech through a Valdosta Daily Times reporter.
A new Bazemore-Hyder?
This has been a difference of opinion between the two sides. The Valdosta City Schools' Board of Education, through a three-man committee, is studying plans for the old stadium.
"The committee has not yet completed his findings. There's been no official recommendation to the board," said Allen, who anticipates the group finishing its work by the end of September. "They are working with architects to determine the costs of either renovating or building a new stadium."
The university wants a new stadium.
"If they're going to renovate the stadium and do nothing else with that block, we don't want to be a player," Zaccari said. "It will not accommodate competitive soccer at the collegiate
level. We need to have something else other than a wrap around the existing stadium."
Zaccari adds another item to the project: parking for commuter students as the university anticipates growth.
"The president's continuing desire is to work something out with the school board," Valdosta State athletic director Herb Reinhard said. "We would like to jointly build a new stadium. And the president has a strong desire to get additional parking for the university. That's a valid, long-term need. If that does not work, it's been our plan all along that we'd go in our own direction."
Paying for the project?
In a time where the university is facing budget cuts, Zaccari proposes long-term bonds to fund the project.
"We'd give the school board their money and pay the bond over 20 years," Zaccari said. "They get their money up front, we get the land. We can demolish the buildings, hard surface and light the parking and get cars on it.
"That's the kind of partnership we're talking about."
The university would probably start a capital campaign to fund its stadium costs. The Valdosta City Schools would use funds from the new special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) to pay for stadium work.
"The new SPLOST starts in October, and we won't get funds until December or January," Allen said.
Furthermore, Allen has been advised that SPLOST funds can't be used if the stadium is run by an authority.
"My understanding from legal counsel is that the funds can't be expended on property not owned by a municipality," he said.
An artist's conception of a new Valdosta State football-soccer stadium had the facility located next to Sunset Hill Cemetery and the new student recreation center.
No more. The old Sunset Park softball complex land will now be used as intramural fields to go along with the student center.
"Sunset Park is our new student intramural complex to go along with the new student recreation facility," Zaccari said. "We want students to come here and play flag football and soccer and softball."
"Sunset Park really hasn't been a (stadium) option for a number of months," Reinhard said. "The president didn't feel like it was a good option. We've been looking for a better option.
"There are a lack of intramural facilities for our students. Here's an opportunity for Sunset Park to be developed into a premier intramural facility."
Building a football-soccer stadium on Reames Field would begin a domino effect of relocating athletic facilities on campus. The tennis courts would be moved and could be expanded, probably near the rec center.
The football practice field could be relocated to North Campus, with the intramural fields there moving to the Sunset Park property.
And parking for a stadium is already there, with the Oak Street lot plus lots at the rec center and University Center.
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