By Danny Henley
HANNIBAL - Major renovations could be in the future of Hannibal High School's Porter Stadium, as well as the school district's other major sports venues.
A committee consisting of school administrators and community leaders have already had discussions regarding what might be needed and what the price tag could be for those upgrades.
"It's been a fun experience because everybody who's there is very passionate about wanting to do the absolute best for our students and also the best for our community," said Superintendent of Hannibal's public schools Susan Johnson of the handful of meetings, which she termed "informal conversations," that have already taken place.
During the August meeting of the Hannibal Board of Education Johnson sought and received approval to continue the dialogue.
"We are making educated decisions as best we can, but as we continue these discussions it could go into a bid process to try and get actual monetary figures on how much something would actually cost," she said. "I would not feel comfortable doing that without your blessing."
Initial discussions focused on the Porter Stadium field turf, which was acquired in "relatively new" condition from the then-St. Louis Rams.
"That was 2008 and this is 2019. It is nearing the end of its lifespan which is usually around 10 to 12 years," Johnson said.
The district has been closely monitoring the condition of the aging turf.
"We probably, realistically, have another couple of years of that turf being in good shape," Johnson said. "Two years will be here before you know it. That's why we want to have these conversations now so time doesn't creep up on us."
Johnson advised the school board that turf is "pretty expensive," estimating it will cost close to $500,000.
Discussions regarding facility upgrades have broadened since the committee began meeting.
"We have not only explored the turf, but we have expanded beyond that and talked about other things that maybe could or should be looked at by our district at other facilities, whether it be the Veterans Sports Complex or other things at the football stadium, just to try and improve them to make sure everything is in good shape for our students and our community," Johnson said.
Mark Bross, school board president, noted that the district's major sports properties are not getting any newer.
"We have a facility over there that is more than just turf," he said, referring to Porter Stadium. "We have age on that whole facility.
"When we stop to think about Veterans (Sports Complex) it is 20-plus years old. We have Korf Gymnasium that was built in the '60s. We don't have anything new."
Johnson said the biggest issue that committee members have been discussing is how to pay the estimated $5 million cost associated with the proposed renovations.
"Basically we have been brainstorming funding mechanisms that might be possibilities and perhaps getting ideas from other communities that would not mean a hardship on the district or on our community tax base," Johnson said. "It will mean being creative and thinking outside the box."
Preliminary research has revealed some communities have used bond issues to pay for upgrades. Others have relied on individual or corporate donations.
"I don't know where this (proposed athletic facility upgrades) is going to go. We will see," Johnson said. "I think it's exciting, not only for our school system, but for our community as a whole."