The Bees of Baker High in Baldwinsville will be renovating their hive soon.
Voters in the Baldwinsville Central School District voted 1,100 to 134 on Feb. 11 in favor of a referendum to overhaul Pelcher-Arcaro Stadium. The approved measures will help “the district’s efforts to maintain its buildings and to continue to provide students with a safe and healthy learning environment,” said Baldwinsville Superintendent Jeanne Dangle after the vote.
The Baldwinsville sports stadium referendum is among several attempts in the past five years to renovate or replace a high school football stadium in Central New York.
The method of payment follows a common trend: School districts, like Baldwinsville, pass a ballot measure for new spending, the proposal gets submitted to the New York State Education Department for approval, the Department allocates money for 75-85 percent of the project, and the rest is borrowed.
Baldwinsville school officials say the projects will not affect taxpayers. They say the district is borrowing money for many ongoing projects. Administrators say the district will be able to repay the loans for existing projects to make up for the new spending. “This one will take the place of it, so it will have no impact on the taxpayer,” said Dangle.
Or as Assistant Superintendent Joseph DeBarbieri puts it, “It’s like replacing one mortgage with another.”
For the Pelcher-Arcaro Stadium, the primary problem is an inadequate drainage system. Recent test borings of the stadium field found poor soil conditions under the field “with silt present down to six feet,” said a recent newsletter from the district. “We need to dig down, remove this soil and replace it with proper materials to promote proper drainage.”
The referendum included two proposals to renovate the stadium. The first measure is part of a broader plan that replaces the drainage system along with significant upgrades to three other schools and the library. It has an estimated cost of $14.85 million. The second, which was contingent on the first measure passing, will install a turf field, replace the wooden bleachers with aluminum ones that are handicap accessible and construct an area for long jump and pole-vaulting. It has an estimated cost of $3.65 million.
Administrators in several school districts stress that these stadiums go beyond football. They also usually are used by soccer, track and field teams and marching bands.
In Camillus, for example, a referendum passed in 2013 approved a proposal to allocate funds for a turf field to help support West Genesee’s football team and also its award-winning band.
The band previously practiced on parking lots and an outdated field. “It wasn’t this nice, irrigated grass field that’s been re-sodded,” said Michael Stachnik, director of the West Genesee Marching Band. “It was miserable. It was like a lunar landing.”
Some schools haven’t been so lucky. Fowler High School, for example, is the only high school in the Syracuse City School District without a renovated or turf field. It has not played a true home game at its own school since 2010. The Fowler stadium was closed after Onondaga County officials began trying to repair a sewage line running under the field, which required it to be closed off.
(Ben Peck is a senior with dual majors in broadcast and digital journalism and finance.)