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New Mount Vernon schools activities complex with seating for 1,500 to be built by 2024
The activities complex is next in the district’s 20-year vision, with a new instructional building to follow
MOUNT VERNON — An up to $5.7 million activities complex is being planned in the Mount Vernon Community School District, financed with a combination of $2.5 million in donations and school district funds and loans.
The complex, to be built next to Mount Vernon High School, 731 Palisades Rd. SW, will give the Mustangs — the school’s mascot — a place to call home after years spent hosting games at Cornell College and practicing on non-regulation fields.
“Our facilities should be commensurate to the quality of our programs,” Superintendent Greg Batenhorst said. “We have an outstanding fine arts program and now we have a facility commensurate to the quality of that. We’re looking for the same thing for sports and marching band. They need something better.”
The activities complex, which was approved by the school board last month and the site plan approved by the Mount Vernon City Council and planning and zoning commission, will include seating for approximately 1,500 spectators, a turf field with an eight-lane track and a place for the marching band to practice and perform — as well as for physical education classes.
There also will be a concessions stand and restrooms building with outdoor patio space, a press box, a scoreboard and more than 560 parking stalls. Construction will begin by spring 2023 and be completed by summer 2024.
Over 75 percent of students in Mount Vernon middle and high school participate in at least one extracurricular activity, including athletics and marching band. About 220 students participated in track and field this past spring, sharing a six-lane track at the middle school, Batenhorst said.
Students sometimes have to practice either as early as 6 a.m. or late in the evening because there isn’t enough space for all of them to practice at once.
The over 100 students in the marching band — which has been invited to perform at a Memorial Day parade in Washington, D.C., in 2023 — often do not have a field to practice on, Batenhorst said.
The activities complex is “not a want, it’s a need for our programs,” Batenhorst said. “When we talk about this project we think of it as a 50-year commitment to the kids.”
For years, Mount Vernon students have practiced and competed at Cornell College’s field in Mount Vernon, which costs about $5,000 per football season. Football and soccer practices typically are held at the district’s First Street Field, 221 E. First St., which is a grass field and not regulation size for soccer.
“Our kids are excited about seeing their name on it — Mustangs — and having a stadium that’s ours,” said district athletic director Matt Thede. “We’re grateful to play at Cornell, but they long for that ownership, that home.”
The district has raised close to $2 million for the project since 2017, Batenhorst said. The complex will be open to the community after-hours because they are helping pay for it, Batenhorst said.
Additionally, $1 million Physical Plant and Equipment Levy funds and a $3 million Physical Plant and Equipment Levy loan will help fund the project.
The project also will include stormwater management. When Mount Vernon High School was built in 2006, a stormwater management basin was constructed to capture water from 131 acres. The basin captures the water and slowly releases it, so it doesn’t flood neighborhoods downstream from the high school, said Loren Hoffman, project manager with Hall and Hall Engineers.
As a part of the activities complex, the district is removing between 3 to 4 feet of accumulated sediment from the bottom of the basin and elevating the embankment an additional foot, Hoffman said.
A second stormwater management basin also will be constructed as a spillway for the first basin, directing water to school property and away from surrounding neighborhoods.
The activities complex is the next project in the district’s 20-year vision to support the academic and activity needs of the students.
The project frees up land where the a six-lane track is currently behind the middle school, 525 Palisades Rd, SW, for a fourth instructional building, which will be needed in the next six to eight years, Batenhorst said.
The instructional building could be for either early childhood education or for fourth and fifth-graders to alleviate crowding in the district’s elementary and middle schools.
Since the district began its 20-year vision in 2017, completed projects include:
- Renovations at the middle school with new flooring in the classrooms and hallways, a new library, new classrooms and a secure entrance;
- A new performing arts center at the high school, which was opened in spring 2020;
- A new softball complex;
- And a multipurpose community wellness center built adjacent to the high school.
The performing arts center addition to the high school was part of a $12.8 million general obligation bond passed by voters in spring 2018. The measure, which needed a 60 percent supermajority to pass, garnered 80 percent. The bond did not raise the district's property tax rate at the time of $18.41 per $1,000 assessed valuation.
Batenhorst said a second bond will be needed to move forward on the fourth instructional building. A new bond issue will not be able to be raised until the current bond is paid off in 2026, he said.
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