Concerns Raised In Skip Plans

By: 
JAKE DOWLING
Managing Editor

Community members voiced their concerns regarding the space for their respective youth groups and events at Skip Baughman Stadium to St. Marys City Councilors on Monday.

St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Abby Balster began the discussion with a proposal on utilizing the complex’s land. The chamber’s largest fundraiser, SummerFest, uses the Skip Baughman Complex for several events such as punt, pass and kick, mud volleyball, soccer shootout, antique tractor show and fireworks and Balster was hoping to be able to use more of that land now that the city owns just under 12 acres of it. 

“With the city acquiring the Skip stadium, it was bought to SummerFest’s [committee] attention that it could be a potential location for us to move out of Memorial Park, which has been a great service for years, but it is a little small …,” she said. “The SummerFest Committee has drawn up different plans and different ways using a conceptional drawing that was presented at the time of purchase and it just didn’t quite fit how we keep envisioning it.”

Balster added that the committee thought to bring other groups in, such as youth football, soccer and Waynestock to begin a conversation about those group’s wants and needs.

Balster gave members of council a rough graphic to consider with a football field and amphitheater located along South Street, a second field or a practice field located at the former practice field just west of the St. Marys River, concession stands located where they have been previously when St. Marys football games were played there and a storage building for the youth program and SummerFest, located next to the tennis courts where the trailer, or visitor’s locker room, was located. Balster said that the graphic she gave to councilors was nothing set in stone, but more for showing the potential of the land and some group’s hopes and dreams of what the land could look like.

In a city council meeting in March, councilors passed a resolution to authorize the city to purchase the Skip Baughman Complex land.

The city and St. Marys City Schools Board of Education have been in discussions for the last few months about the land and the two have agreed on the city purchasing 11.959 acres of the 13.671 acres from the St. Marys City Schools District for $200,000. 

The district owns lot 2 — 1.712 acres of land — which is Cook Gymnasium and the parking that surrounds it. The district still uses Cook Gym for wrestling and baseball practice and the building serves as a storage unit for the district and is used as office space for the wrestling and baseball coaches.

Joining Balster on Monday were youth football coach Al Solomon; Mike McClain of St. Marys Club Soccer; Keith Jacobs of Waynestock; Adam Wycuff, Roughriders Touchdown Club president and Jason Lutz on behalf of the St. Marys Flag Football program.

Solomon told councilors that he hoped that youth football would still have a place to practice and play and that he would like the youth programs to remain to Skip. 

“I would like to be able to discuss our ideas in an open dialogue,” he added.

McClain told councilors that St. Marys Club Soccer registers more than 400 players each fall and continues to progress, possibly into a spring league. He added that the fall league has to share space with the youth football programs at K.C. Geiger, causing more congestion, especially with a lack of parking at the park, and that of the 400 players in the club, fewer than half actually get to play soccer at a city park. The estimated that the other 60% play soccer at Hillsdale United Brethern Church on Holly Street or at West Intermediate School — which has also caused congestion with club soccer players sharing real estate with St. Marys junior high and the varsity soccer teams that use the fields to practice on during the season. 

Jacobs said that the area Waynestock currently has can hold about 10-12,000 people in the area, but his concern was boxing in Waynestock into too small of an area. He was hoping the event can bring in bigger and more acts in the future. Wycuff, who also coaches youth football, said he noticed that the teams had problems staying on practice fields with youth soccer also going on at the same time and a lack of parking at K.C. Geiger. Wycuff asked to move youth football out of K.C. Geiger altogether up to Skip and have the soccer program use K.C. Geiger, but also allow the two programs to work together with regards to flooding issues. With rough 160 kids in youth football and 400 more in youth soccer, Lutz said that flag football is nearing 200 kids in its program, which is played every Sunday in July and concludes during SummerFest at Skip Baughman Stadium. Adding that flag football is also considering a spring league as well, Lutz said that space is definitely needed.

In a press release the city sent out last November, it stated that the city’s intention was to continue to use Skip Baughman Stadium and the surrounding grounds as a site for youth athletics. 

The visitor stands would be demolished and the home stands will be maintained. The city would also keep the home concession stand to serve the fields and Skip Baughman Stadium will remain as the main field and could be split up, resulting in up to four youth fields at the location that could host several practice sessions at one time. The lights also would remain at the facility. 

The city also had preliminary plans to build an amphitheater on the east end of the site, near the practice football field along South Street and facing the railroad tracks. 

This would open up the venue to host a variety of activities throughout the year.

Council President Jim Harris wanted community members to understand that some of the land at Skip — mainly along South and Front streets — was being used for housing. He cited the housing shortage in the area as one reason, that the city needed a way balance its finances after purchasing the land earlier this year and pointed out the lack of use of other parks throughout town.

Law Director Kraig Noble reiterated that from day 1 of planning on what to do with the land, the city has wanted an amphitheater, the question was where to put it, but Noble added that the city wants to support Waynestock and a potential concert series. 

Director of Public Service and Safety Greg Foxhoven addressed the soccer fields, saying that the city agrees that there is a lack of space for soccer in town and added that the city is looking to possibly add up to eight soccer fields on Beech Street with property the city purchased roughly a year ago.

“We understand that you want everyone at one location, we would like that too, the problem is how to fund those projects,” Foxhoven added. “There aren’t enough field because soccer continues to grow, but the layout on Beech Street is a start, it just boils down to funding. Like the amphitheater, without donations, it could take years until it get built. …  It is just a process we have to go through.”

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