Athletes in the Liverpool school district haven’t had home field advantage since the fall of 2007.
But that’s about to change.
On Thursday voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum to revamp the stadium at Liverpool High School (3,684 in favor, 1,474 against). The $5.8 million proposal will be funded through state aid, the district’s capital reserve fund and its turf replacement fund, meaning it will have no local tax impact.
District voters had previously rejected the stadium renovation plans twice. The approved proposal was scaled down from those presented to voters in February and June of 2008, calling for a new turf field, new track, replacement of the drainage and other underpinnings of the field and track and new bleachers.
Joe Unangst, who is a member of both the Liverpool Central School District Board of Education and the district’s Stadium Committee, was thrilled to see the project pass.
“I would like to say that I appreciate all of the effort that went into this referendum; the other board members who voted to use capital reserve money to make the project a zero tax increase; [Interim Athletic Director] Mark Potter who worked with the committee to propose a fiscally responsible referendum and worked relentlessly to get the facts out; Jim Stoddard and Jackie Samora who led the committee to communicate the facts of the referendum; the entire committee for their time and effort; and I am most grateful to the voters who overwhelmingly approved a well-structured referendum,” Unangst said. “It is now our obligation to assure this project meets the expectations of the voters and is built on-time and on-budget in a proper fashion so that generations of Liverpool students and citizens can appreciate what has been provided by the taxpayers. So thanks to all, I look forward to being there with all of our proud citizens of Liverpool when our Road Warriors come home!”
Voters said they believed it was time to bring Liverpool’s athletes home.
“The kids are first and foremost,” said resident Richard Neale. “I have a son who graduated in 2007.We moved to Liverpool from Syracuse in 2004 because the urban blight was closing in on our neighborhood. My son was the new kid on the block and he really only met kids during his first summer football practices. His time at Liverpool was certainly the highlight of his to that point life I watched my kid grow physically and mentally while playing for Coach Spataro. His senior year, he and many of his teammates got hurt on that rolling carpet they played on. No one sustained a season-ender but they all got nicked up because of that playing surface. My youngest son is in eighth grade and he should get the opportunity to play in front of the home crowd on the home field too. Nothing like homecoming!”
Neale also cited the cost of busing athletes to fields in other districts.
“The cost of renting facilities and busing kids to and from the games is totally unnecessary,” he said. “Why throw $100,000 away every year?”
Not everyone felt those were strong enough reasons to vote for the renovations. Some said they didn’t trust the board of education to keep their promise that the fixes will have no tax impact.
“I voted no over distrust of the board,” said Richard Ferrante. “I felt it was foolish to give them more money considering past performance.”
But for some, including Neale, those arguments against the board didn’t hold water.
“The vitriol and all-around nastiness spewed by the antis really caught me off guard,” Neale said. “There was an incredible amount of pure pettiness that I was unaware of in this district. Sure, Jan may have screwed up on some things, but [former Superintendent John] Cataldo and his cronies did more to cause the problems with the field as well as the state of disrepair in the district than anyone.”
Now that the plans have been approved by the voters, the district’s architects, Ashley McGraw, will send the plans on to the State Education Department. Once State Ed approves the plans — district officials anticipate approval around August — the district will advertise for bids from contractors. Construction is expected to start in October of 2009 and to take nine to 12 months.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.