Copyright 2018 The Post and Courier
All Rights Reserved
Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)
Built on a landfill in a former marsh, Burke High School's Stoney Field is sinking every year.
The earth gives way beneath the foundations of its concrete bleachers. The football field is a sopping mess every time it rains at high tide.
Almost three years after the downtown school's athletic teams had to abandon their historic home-stadium at city-owned Stoney Field, the Charleston County School District is prepared to invest $1 million for an upgrade, including fill dirt and a new artificial turf surface.
"If you don't see dirt turning by November, you'll know we haven't kept our word on that," School Board member Todd Garrett recently told families assembled inside the Burke media center.
The plan is to cover the field with mounds of dirt, which will settle and compress the soils and help slow down future erosion. Chief Operating Officer Jeff Borowy said that process could take up to a year, depending on soil conditions. After that, the district will add an artificial turf surface, and the field will be ready for use again.
The funding for that work will come from a 1-cent sales tax that Charleston County voters approved in 2014 to pay for school construction and renovation projects including "athletic improvements" at Burke.
The underlying problem at Stoney Field is the same that the city faces next door at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park, home of the Charleston RiverDogs and Citadel baseball teams. The problem is also found at the WestEdge development nearby: All are built on a swath of mid-20th-century garbage that is slowly subsiding into the Ashley River.
It is possible, but technically challenging, to build on such conditions. The city periodically replenishes the field at Riley Park to replace the land lost to subsidence, and WestEdge is being built on pilings driven deep into the earth.
The district published a Capital Programs Master Plan in February 2014 saying it was committed to a cost sharing agreement with the city for a new stadium at Stoney Field to support Burke as well as other users.
Previous estimates for replacing the entire stadium ranged from $6 million to $10 million in the early 2000s, but Borowy said in 2015 that the cost could rise because of the need for pilings. He estimated at the time that the field had sunk 2½ feet in seven years .
Burke's football team abandoned Stoney Field that fall after heavy rains rendered it unusable. The Citadel offered the use of its Johnson Hagood Stadium, where the team has played its home games ever since. The team could alternate between Johnson Hagood and Ravenel Stadium in West Ashley for home games this fall, although school district officials said those plans aren't final.
At a District 20 Constituent School Board meeting Wednesday night, Burke families and alumni pressed school officials for details on the future of Stoney Field. Some called for a total replacement.
"Those are Band-Aids, that's all those are. People are getting tired of Band-Aids," said Tony Lewis, chairman of the constituent board.
"If y'all are going to say no, say no so we can fight it. If y'all are going to say yes, let us know so we can get a coalition together and support it," said Eric A. Jackson, a 1995 Burke alumnus and chairman of Burke's School Improvement Council.
The district and the city have not announced any plan to replace Stoney Field, but more money could be available soon for improvements to its track and other parts. The district plans to sell its vacant Archer School campus on the East Side to the city for $3.25 million, and the district said in March it would spend the proceeds on improving Stoney Field.
Stoney Field which may get a $1 million upgrade to avert flooding and erosion concerns from the Charleston County School District.
photographs by Wade Spees/Staff
Stoney Field, home of the Burke High School Bulldogs, on Thursday, May 10, 2018. Wade Spees/Staff
Erosion is evident around the foundation of the stands at Stoney Field.