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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)


It's game day at Oceanside Collegiate Academy and everyone is scrambling for a ride.

The girls soccer team needs a bus to get from its Mount Pleasant campus to Charleston Southern University for a "home match" against Andrews.

The baseball team is headed to Collins Park in North Charleston for another designated "home game" against Lake Marion. The boys soccer team, well, it doesn't have a home field yet and plays every game as a road team - on this night it's in West Ashley at Ravenel Stadium.

That was a typical day in the spring for Oceanside's athletic department.

Chad Grier, who took over as the school's athletic director earlier this month, is hoping to change that as the school prepares to launch a capital fundraising campaign to finance new on-campus facilities. The ambitious plan, which features a new football stadium, soccer and lacrosse fields, tennis and beach volleyball courts, is expected to cost at least $10 million.

With 600 students and 28 athletic teams in 18 different sports, the Oceanside Academy Landsharks have had a vagabond existence since the charter school opened its doors in the fall of 2016. The school has a gymnasium on campus, but doesn't have any other practice or game facilities for most of its sports.

"Obviously, field space in Mount Pleasant in at a premium for every sport we have," Grier said. "The logistical gymnastics that the school had to go through just so our kids could practice was nothing that I'd ever been a part of and our administrative staff did a great job getting everyone where they needed to be safely.

"The school did a great job of juggling all of those moving parts to get our kids not only to practice every day, but to games as well."

The architectural designs for the new facilities were presented to the school's board earlier this month and are expected to be unveiled to the public in July. While Oceanside receives a flat per-pupil dollar amount from federal and state levels, the charter school does not collect any county funds for capital projects like new athletic facilities. All the money for the proposed state-of-the-art facilities would have to come from outside sources.

"We're still in the initial design concept stage, so things could change as we go," said Oceanside Academy board chairman Marvin Arnsdorff. "Our primary goal is to get as many of our students as possible to be able to stay on campus to practice. Right now, they are going all over Mount Pleasant and North Charleston just to practice and we were spending a lot of money on transportation."

Other schools across the county don't have to worry about fundraising campaigns to finance new athletic facilities.

The price tag for the planned East Cooper regional stadium, next to Wando High School in Mount Pleasant, is $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.

Arnsdorff said the price tag might be high to some, but he's confident the school will be able to raise the money.

"I'm very optimistic," Arnsdorff said. "A lot of people said we couldn't build a school and get it open by last fall and we did. We've got highly engaged parents, a highly engaged community in athletics and academics."

Brenda Corley, the school's principal, wasn't ready to comment on the fundraising project or the facilities.

"We haven't told our parents about our plans, so I don't want to comment until they get a look at it," Corley said.

One of the key features of the T.Y. Lin design is the side-by-side football and soccer/lacrosse fields. A building, which will feature a weight room, indoor training facilities and coaches' offices, will separate the two fields.

"That's the goal," Grier said. "There will be a press box and a field house that will be shared by both fields. The cool part is there will be a terrace, so fans can watch simultaneous games. They can watch both fields."

The plan is to have five tennis courts, including pickleball courts, and beach volleyball.

"We didn't think about pickleball courts, until (Mount Pleasant) mayor (Will) Haynie brought it up," Arnsdorff said. "All these retirement communities are in the area and we knew we could add that for them. We want to be an extension of the community and not something that's exclusive of it."

Naming rights for the fields will be a primary way to raise money for the different projects.

"I think there are some business and organizations that want to get behind this," Arnsdorff said. "We can do things that Charleston County can't. We might be able to have a Boeing Stadium or a BB&T stadium or field. We can do that kind of stuff. We're versatile. That's the key for us."

Grier said all of the facilities won't be built at the same time. There will be phases for each project, but the goal is to have a new on-campus field, which could be used for football, soccer and lacrosse, by the fall of 2020.

The school already shares baseball and softball fields with the town of Mount Pleasant, and Grier said a quid pro quo will exist for the future facilities.

"This isn't just about Oceanside Academy, it's about the community as a whole, we want everyone to be able to use and enjoy what we've built," he said.


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June 28, 2018


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