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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)
The Charleston County School Board approved a combined $10.6 million in budget increases for a pair of high school sports stadiums Monday night.
The new price tag for the planned East Cooper regional stadium, next to Wando High in Mount Pleasant, is now $16.5 million. That's more than twice the $8.1 million that the district budgeted for the project after a 2014 voter referendum that extended a local penny sales tax for a raft of new construction projects.
Meanwhile, in North Charleston, a regional stadium serving schools across the city is now pegged at $22.5 million, up from $14.2 million in 2014. Adding in a 38-acre land purchase that the district made off of West Montague Avenue for the stadium in January, the total land and construction cost comes to $34 million.
Board Chair Kate Darby says the land will be used for more than just the stadium, though. Board members have discussed leasing out parts of the tract or using portions of it for other district buildings. No specific plans to that effect have been announced yet.
The new budgets far outpace similar projects in the Upstate and Midlands, where land and construction costs are cheaper. Some of the budget increases were voluntary.
The district decided to upgrade the artificial turf, press boxes and scoreboards at the two regional facilities, which will serve multiple high schools and multiple sports. Chief Operating Officer Jeff Borowy has said the district wanted to keep up with the quality of other stadiums around the state.
The new North Charleston stadium budget also factors in items such as a 1,500-space parking lot and additional underground utility lines at the mostly undeveloped site.
Beyond that, Darby said the booming construction market in the Charleston area is partly to blame for the cost increase.
Darby said the district's stadiums are long overdue for an upgrade. Despite boasting some of the newest school facilities in the state, stadiums like the concrete shell that previously served Wando lag behind statewide standards, she said.
"Tons of our kids participate in athletics ... When you compare our athletic facilities against others in the state, we were at the bottom of the barrel," Darby said.
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