“It should be a show-piece for our town, and unfortunately, it is not,” board chair Peter Bernstein said Thursday.
In December, the school board approved a $26 million capital budget for 2019-20, including $8.4 million for work on Cardinal Stadium, which included replacing the 40-year-old bleachers.
But the BET budget committee voted to reduce the request to $1.3 million, the amount estimated just to replace the home-side bleachers. Bernstein said the figure would not cover the design or delivery of the new bleachers and the removal of the old ones. Further, the town would save money if it fixed both the home-side and away-side bleachers, he said.
The budget committee members also asked the school board to work with KG&D Architects — the firm that reviewed every building in Greenwich Public Schools and developed a 15-year master facilities plan to update them — to reorder the projects within the overall stadium redesign.
The resulting plan would include, in phase one: new home and away bleachers, a press box and elevator, electrical service and updates to “related roads and parking,” as well as money for a site plan approval, the administration of design and construction for the first phase and design for the second phase. The first phase would include two additions that were not in the original project: a temporary toilet facility and changes to the field’s lighting.
Cardinal Stadium is just the title of the project, architect Russ Davidson said. The project should be considered a partial redevelopment of the Greenwich High School campus, which could need more than $209 million in renovations over the next 15 years, his firm estimated last summer.
I reserve judgment on whether a high school stadium should be a “show piece” for our town, and whether our BOE has lost its mind entirely, but any discussion, let alone budgeting to make it one, has to include the settlement agreement reached between the town and high school’s neighbors that prohibits any expansion of use whatsoever. Our Lovable Whack Job (he’s written me that he enjoys the title, so I continue to use it) Bill Effros has kept the courts focused on enforcing that ill-advised settlement for decades, and he shows no sign of letting up. And although Effros is the point man, it’s clear that his neighbors support him, so a hit team directed to his household won’t make the problem go away.
The town agreed to a set of ridiculously-strict conditions on the use of the high school and, especially, the stadium, but unless someone comes up with a way around that court settlement, I think we’re doomed to sit in those port-a-pottys and dream of grander things. I personally am grateful for Bill Effros’ gallant attempt to play the Dutch Boy with his finger in the dike.