$17,750,000 of E-SPLOST Money Will Go to Athletic Facilities Improvements

A NEW $7 MILLION STADIUM,  A NEW $5 MILLION GYM,  AND OTHER  UPGRADES FOR ATHLETIC FACILITIES WOULD BE FINANCED BY NEW E-SPLOST

When I was growing up in Columbus, all of the school football games were played at Memorial Stadium.  Now,  seven are played there, and 40 at Kinnett Stadium, which is much smaller.   Seven games is all the system can get at Memorial because of other events there.  The City of Columbus owns the stadium,  but the school district owns Kinnett.

Dr. Gary Gibson, Director of Athletics, MCSD, at Kinnett Stadium, Columbus, GA

Dr. Gary Gibson, Director of Athletics, MCSD, at Kinnett Stadium, Columbus, GA

Dr, Gary Gibson, Director of  Athletics for the MCSD says Kinnett is used so much that it needs artificial turf for the football, soccer, lacrosse field,  and a new 9-lane track, plus a new scoreboard, and sound system.  He wants $17, 750, 000 of the proposed Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax to pay for improving Kinnett stadium and other projects,  including a small, new stadium at Brewer Elementary. That stadium, plus a track, tennis courts,  and parking will cost $7,500,000. 

Dr. Gibson explained that the new $2.5 million track at Kinnett will be nine lanes, all wider than the lanes on the present track

Dr. Gibson explained that the new $2.5 million track at Kinnett will be nine lanes, all wider than the lanes on the present track

The Brewer Stadium will be small,  but Dr. Gibson says, “There are a number of games that don’t draw very large crowds.    Kinnett will hold about six thousand people,  and Memorial Stadium seats about 16,000.  There are games that just don’t draw crowds that large.”

He says the Brewer stadium, which, like Kinnett,  will be used for football, soccer, and lacrosse,  will take some pressure off Kinnett.

The total cost for Kinnett upgrades is $2,750,000.

Part of the Kinnett expenditure will go for a new scoreboard to replace the broken and obsolete one now in use,  and for a new sound system. The old sound system doesn’t work any more. Portable speakers are brought in and mounted on top of the press box  for games.  Dr. Gibson says, “The new scoreboard will be better, but not in the class with the high-tech ones at schools like Valdosta High, which have digital screens that show instant replays.”

Kinnett Stadium obsolete and broken scoreboard, with stadium sized speakers on top that haven't worked for years

Kinnett Stadium's obsolete and broken scoreboard, with stadium-sized speakers on top that haven't worked for years

Dr. Gibson has greater plans for Kinnett,  but realizes that the SPLOST won’t cover those expenses.  For one thing, he wants to build a new dressing room facility.  “The old one is inadequate,” he says.  “It will only hold about 20 members of each team so the coaches have to talk to them at half time by having the offensive team in for one session, and the defensive for another one.” 

Kinnett Stadium locker room, which has no lockers, or showers,  and is so small teams have to use it in shifts

Kinnett Stadium locker room, which has no lockers, nor showers, and is so small teams have to use it in shifts

Torn training table in Kinnett Stadium locker room

Torn training table in Kinnett Stadium locker room

He hopes  to pay for the new locker room facility and other upgrades with what he calls licensing.  Businesses or individuals can license a facility, which means they will get its name on it  by making a financial contribution.  He said, “You know, maybe the new locker room could be the Aflac Locker Room.  The renovated press box could be the Synovus Press Box, for instance, and so on.”  While explaining that idea, he emphasized how greatful the system is to the Kinnett family for its contributions in getting the stadium built.

But, all of that will have to wait.  The projects that the SPLOST will pay for have the top priority. 

Besides the big ticket items at Kinnett and Brewer,  Fort Middle School will get a new system-wide gymnasium that will have four locker rooms, and seat 2,500 people for $5,000,000.

Spencer will get $650,000 improvements, including track and baseball field upgrades, and a new softball field.

Northside, Jordan, and Kendrick will get track upgrades, costing $200,00 each.  

Columbus High will get $200,000 for an upgrade of the softball field at Lakebottom.

And the new Carver High school will receive $825,000 for its baseball and softball fields, and a warm-up track around the football practice field.

What does he have to say to those who say that academics should come first. Is it a good idea to spend all that money on sports?

“Studies have shown,” he told me, “that students who participate in programs, on average, perform better in academics than those who don’t. Also, schools with good athletic programs have fewer behavioral problems. And programs engender strong school spirit, uniting students and faculty to support he school teams.”

I think he’s right.  Bands do that, too.  I told him about the Bob Barr Alumni Band doing a memorial half-time show at Kinnett a few years ago and the huge crowd that it attracted at a Jordan-Columbus football game. Dr. Gibson said he understood the importance of music programs.  He said,  “While I was a high school athlete, I also played the piano and sang in the chorus.” 

I said, “That’s good. In other words, you were well rounded.” 

He replied, “My mother insisted on it!”

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