CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Cleveland City Schools has presented the City Council with a couple of design options for a new gymnasium for Cleveland High School.
In December the high school lost its main gymnasium and a number of classroom spaces when the Raider Dome, which houses those facilities, was closed following an unfavorable structural analysis.
It would cost $11 million just to replace the current structure, which has a bleacher seating capacity of 1,500 and measures 53,825 square feet, architect Brian Templeton of Upland Design said. However, he said, that design meets current Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and also allows the school to be closed to gymnasium traffic, which the Raider Dome did not.
A larger facility, measuring 61,865 square feet and offering a court that can be split into two practice courts and bleacher seating for 2,700, would cost $12.5 million, he said. Another 300 people possibly could be accommodated in that structure's elevated walkway areas, he said.
"I think that is building for the future, with the growth we are projecting," said Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools, of the plan for the larger facility. "To me, it's a smart use of the money."
For $1.5 million more than the baseline replacement, the school can double the seating capacity of the gym, he said.
The Raider Dome's current seating capacity has presented some challenges for events held there, which sometimes have forced people to stand outside until someone leaves, said Autumn O'Bryan, principal of Cleveland High School.
Replacing the lost classroom and wellness programming spaces as soon as possible also is critical, Ringstaff said.
With the loss of those instructional spaces, 300 to 400 students have to be spread across campus to fulfill physical education requirements, O'Bryan said.
The school system is also facing funding needs for a new $16.1 million elementary school to be located on Georgetown Road. The new school is intended to relieve overcrowding and address expected growth in the school system, officials said.
Councilman Richard Banks asked Ringstaff to prioritize for the two capital projects.
"They are equal priorities," Ringstaff said. "Both need to be dealt with."
The need for nearly $30 million is hard to explain, said Councilman George Poe, who recommended that school board members "knock on doors" again like they did in 2009 about a city sales tax increase.
The Cleveland City Council has not proposed a comprehensive funding strategy for the projects, but it recently authorized the restructuring of long-term debt through the Tennessee Municipal League.
That move will result in $100,000 in annual savings over 20 years, City Manager Janice Casteel said. It costs $70,000 annually to service $1 million in bonded debt, she said.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.