The city of Dodge City will transfer the Civic Center to the school district. Facility use to remain essentially unchanged.
The USD 443 board voted 7-0 to approve an agreement with the city for the transfer of the Civic Center and adjacent property to the school district.
In a plan that's been under consideration for several months, the city will transfer the Civic Center and most of the land in the area bounded by Morgan Blvd. on the south, Soule St. on the north, Central Ave. on the east and Sixth Ave. on the west. The city will retain ownership of the swimming pool and the fire station. The northeast corner of the area is owned by the National Guard Armory.
From the city's point of view, with the completion of United Wireless Arena, Magouirk Conference Center and the Western State Bank Expo Center, there is less demand for the Civic Center. However, the school district has been making use of the building more in recent months, particularly for basketball practices.
"We feel this is a good way to keep the facility viable for years to come rather than let it sit underutilized. It could also save the taxpayers money when we need to look at a new school," said Alan Cunningham, USD 443 superintendent.
As the board looks at trends and projections, enrollment at the middle school level could increase by 600 to 700 students in the next five to 10 years.
"At that point, would we want two large middle schools in our present facilities or would we want a third middle school to keep them smaller?," Cunningham said.
If the answer is a third middle school, Cunningham estimates that adding classrooms to an existing gym and auditorium (the Civic Center) could save taxpayers $8 to $10 million.
The school district will take over operations of the Civic Center Feb. 1 but nothing much will change.
"We intend to keep the facility available for community use, such as the Community Concerts and the Shrine Circus — we'll honor all existing contracts," Cunningham said.
Cunningham also foresees the building being used for meetings, speakers and even gatherings of school district staff.
"Our whole staff won't fit in any of the auditoriums," he said.
The school district is expecting the financial situation to be a wash: no new expenses and no significant new revenue.
"We're not looking to make money with the building," Cunningham said.
Bill Hammond, the district's financial officer, told the board that the building's heating and air conditioning systems could likely be interfaced with the district's current systems. He also expects a similar solution will be possible with the security system.
"The district already manages over 1.5 million square feet of facilities and 100 acres of property. Economy of scale will help us incorporate this into our operations with minimal difficulty," Cunningham said.
"The building will be in use immediately at no additional cost to taxpayers," he said.
The city has agreed to go ahead with a project to replace the large doors on the north and south ends of the Civic Center.
And city staff will assist school district staff in making the transition, along with help from the staff of VenuWorks, the management company currently contracted to manage the facility.
"There is one change that may be significant," Hammond told the board.
"By state statute, no adult beverages are allowed on school property, and that will include the Civic Center. There's no way around it," he said.
In other business, the board approved specifications for a track and field project at the high school, allowing the project to go out for bids.
The project will create a practice field to be used by soccer teams, track and field teams and the marching band.
"This will mean that students don't have to pile in cars and drive to Memorial Stadium after school for practice and the band kids won't have to make that mad dash to get to school after their early-morning practices," Cunningham said.
"We want to emphasize that we are not planning to move football games from Memorial Stadium to the high school," Hammond said.
The board also discussed the need for additional band uniforms due to increased enrollment in the program.
The board also discussed governance details with staff of the Bright Beginnings program.
As grantee for the programs, the board is the governing body for the program and will be involved in an upcoming evaluation visit by program officials.