District hopes to unveil new track for Pickerington Central in spring

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Snow covers the new eight-lane track for Pickerington High School Central on Dec. 16. The district hopes the facility, which is on a 66-acre site adjacent to the high school along Lockville Road, can be used for the spring track and field season.

An approximately $3.5-million project will yield new facilities for Pickerington High School Central’s track and field program that district officials hope will be available for meets this spring.

This past April, work began to build an eight-lane track, pole-vault pit, bleachers, utilities and a parking lot on a 66-acre site known as the McGill property, adjacent to the high school along Lockville Road.

The project is one the district has sought for several years, including in May 2017 when local voters rejected a 3-mill permanent-improvement levy that would have provided funding for a new stadium and track.

“The current track at Tiger Stadium does not meet International High School Federation standards for competition,” said Ryan Jenkins, Pickerington Schools treasurer. “It is only a seven-lane track.

“Moreover, Tiger Stadium is in the Sycamore Creek flood plain.”

Westerville-based Adena Corp. is leading the project, which includes approximately $3.1 million for construction of the track, a parking lot, sidewalks, seeding for a field, lighting and irrigation.

Additionally, Sturdisteel Co., based in Waco, Texas, was hired for the $404,300 project to build bleachers on what could be the visitor’s side to a new stadium.

Jenkins said district officials hope to have the facility “completed in time for competition at some point in the 2021 track season.”

“The current phase will add a parking lot at the north end of the complex (and) concrete work for the pole vault pit, curbs for the track (and) track events like the high jump and long jump,” he said. 

Central boys track and field coach Jason Roach is excited for the new track to be available.

His program already is among the best in the state, having won OCC and state championships in 2018 and 2019. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic wiped out the 2020 season. 

“With this new track, you’d be able to run about any meet you want to run – district, regional, anything,” Roach said. “Pickerington has always prided themselves on their facilities. One thing that’s been lacking was the Central track.”

In addition to being able to host larger events, which Roach said could bring added revenue to the district, the facility will enable Central and Ridgeview STEM Junior High School to have separate practice facilities.

“I’m just very thankful that we’re finally getting a new track and that we’ll be more competitive in facilities with other schools in central Ohio,” he said. “This definitely is going to be an upgrade for both the boys and girls programs.”

The work is being funded with capital-improvement money the district set aside from its general operating fund, the latter of which finances day-to-day operations and expenses for teacher and staff salaries and employee benefits.

That fund was set up by the district’s board of education in 1999, Jenkins said. 

“The funding sources came from the lease payments on the cell tower located at Tiger Stadium, and through budgeted and pre-planned transfers to the capital-development fund from the general fund,” he said. “For the past six to eight years, the district has responsibly budgeted and planned for capital development expenditures all throughout the district by transferring funds to its capital-improvement funds – the capital-development fund is a type of capital-improvement fund. 

“These capital-improvement dollars address the renovation, expansion, and the day-to-day maintenance and upkeep of our facilities.”

In the future, the site of the new track could be added to with the construction of a new Tiger Stadium.

As of now, the district would fund the construction of the remainder of the stadium with money from a bond it plans to put before voters May 4, 2021.

The bond, a millage rate for which has yet to be finalized, would be designed to raise $95 million over 38 years.

In addition to funding a new Tiger Stadium – a project estimated to cost an additional $2.75 million – the bond would provide money for the district to build a third junior high school and add space to its existing school buildings.

“If the May 4, 2021 bond issue does not pass, we will certainly have to reassess our plans for the continued development of the McGill property, including the stadium,” Jenkins said. “Certainly, we do not have the kind of cash laying around for the completion of a stadium, and certainly we don’t have $85 million to $90 million to build a new junior high and for upgrades to school buildings.

“In the short run, possibly three to four years, we would not have the funds to continue the development of the stadium given that the use of capital-improvement funds for the further development of the stadium could not be justified given its impact on other capital projects needed in the district -- principally the maintenance and upkeep of our buildings and facilities.” 

If the May 4 bond passes, Jenkins said, the district would seek to begin construction on the rest of the stadium this summer.

“We would do everything we possibly could to have the stadium open for events in the fall of 2021,” he said. “While we might not meet the deadline for the first home football game, it is reasonable to conclude that we may get the project done in time for some events to occur there in the fall of 2021. 

“As with any construction project, though, we will most likely run into delays or unforeseen events that could change this outlook.”

ThisWeek staff writer Dave Purpura contributed to this story. 

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate