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Our View: Team effort needed for Batavia athletic plan

Published: Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 5:33 a.m. CDT

The quest for improvements to the athletic facilities at Batavia High School makes sense.

The fields haven’t seen major improvements since the school was built in 1966. Safety issues exist at some facilities. It’s reasonable to want upgrades.

But the idea of supporting the $13.4 million plan isn’t quite so easy. A price tag that high is a tough sell during a difficult economy. It would be unrealistic to expect taxpayers to fund a large chunk of such a plan. And it would be unacceptable to quickly push through more specific parts of the plan without significant support from the school district’s residents.

The proposed plan calls for the installation of synthetic turf at the football stadium, as well as 1,000 additional bleacher seats, a press box, a scoreboard and stadium lighting. Fencing around the baseball field would address a safety issue. A part of the plan also calls for tennis court lighting and $1.5 million for a new maintenance garage and storage facility.

While academics must come first at any school district, the importance of athletics shouldn’t be minimized. A strong athletic program can help build a community, and having the proper facilities can be a factor when potential residents are choosing a place to live. A school district of Batavia’s stature shouldn’t have low-quality athletic fields. But that doesn’t mean district officials should quickly push forward with any plans. 

Areas of improvement must be prioritized. The information must be presented and broken down for residents, with plenty of opportunities for public feedback.

Raising funds is strongly preferred over raising taxes. Donations should be sought. The burden for residents should be as minimal as possible, even if that means the process takes longer than some would like.

If significant funding cannot be raised, then the plan should be scaled down. There is no scenario in which a big boost in taxes would win community support. But this is an effort worth pursuing. Those interested in seeing the plan’s success must take action and participate, seek donations and be part of the process. Those on both sides should show up at meetings and be aware of each step.

A team effort is needed, and it’s time to get in the game.

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