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Providence Journal,
July 6, 2005
By Linda Borg

07 Feb 06: Plans for American Tourister Scrutinized
06 Apr 28: Royal Mill Clock Tower Tolls Again
06 Apr 9: Herb Weiss takes message on the Road
05 Dec 21: 14,500 sf Condo
05 Oct 30: The High Life
05 Oct 10: Jefferson Place goes condo
05 Sep 16: Pearl Street Lofts
05 Sep 1: The old Bomes Theatre
05 Aug 13: Brown purchases Old Stone Bank
05 Aug 11: Providence: Boom or Bust?
05 Aug 9: Taco Truk
05 Jul 15: SBER buys US Rubber
05 Jul 6: Sports Complex
05 Jun 21: Providence Kickball
05 Jun 17: Sasaki presents Vision 2020
05 Jun 16: State fixes Armory
05 Jun 15: Capital Center development
05 Jun 02: Trolley Barn demolished
05 May 13: Downtown BID team deployed
05 Apr 13: New Westin Tower revealed
05 Apr 17: Duany suggests redo public squares
05 Mar 25: Feldco re-negs on affordable units
05 Mar 21: A Better way for Warwick?
05 Feb 27: Interview with Buff Chace
05 Feb 25: 32-story condo tower proposed downtown
05 Feb 21: Developers want to buy Fidas

Mayor set on $7 million for sports complex

Members of the School Board wonder why the money can't be spent on more pressing problems.

By Linda Borg, Providence Journal | July 6, 2005

Mayor David N. Cicilline and City Council member Kevin Jackson want to build a $7 million athletic complex next to the Hanley Career & Technical Center on Fricker Street.

The athletic center is part of a $42-million school bond issue that will go before the City Council Thursday night. The bond includes $16 million for a new high school off Adelaide Street, $12 million in school repairs and $1 million to renovate the historic Fox Point Bathhouse, which will become part of the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School.

Jackson, chairman of the City Council Finance Committee, said the athletic complex represents an initiative between "myself and the mayor." He said the complex will tie in nicely with the mayor's after-school programs.

The 30,000-square-foot facility would include two pools, an indoor soccer field, a track, dance studio, weight rooms, basketball courts and lockers. It would be open to city students and their families.

But several School Board members have concerns about the proposal. They have asked John Simmons, the mayor's director of administration, to explain the project at the board's July 11 meeting.

"I'm hugely in favor of athletics and any kind of after-school activities," said School Board member Burt Crenca, "but we, as a board, need more information. Personally, this is all new to me."

Several School Board members said they needed more information on the annual cost of maintaining the building before signing off on it. Others wanted to make sure that more pressing problems with facilities would receive attention.

"First of all, we still have kids in the basement of Mount Pleasant High School," said board member Robert Wise. "I want to know who [the sports complex] would serve and how we would fund it. I have concerns about why this is a priority."

This isn't the first time that the sports facility has come before the School Board.
According to school and city officials, the School Board approved a similar plan more than a year ago. Simmons said the only thing that's changed is the location. The city had planned to build the sports facility off Adelaide Avenue, where the new high school is going, but the site wasn't large enough.

"The athletic complex has been talked about for years," Simmons said. "It comes from the mayor, the chairman of the finance committee and the school system. Many people have asked, 'Why don't the students have a first-class athletic facility?' "
Simmons said it makes sense to build the complex while Hanley and the adjacent Central High School are undergoing renovations.

"The administration has taken a hard look at the school facilities," he said. "It's the judgment of this administration that this is the right time and the right place."

"Somebody wants it," said School Board President Mary McClure.

Jackson said he doesn't understand why School Board members are so surprised. Simmons, he said, explained the project to the School Board last fall.

"This is something the mayor and I feel strongly about," Jackson said yesterday. "It goes hand in hand with our after-school initiatives. School doesn't end at 2 p.m. or 2:30. We need to provide positive alternatives for our kids."

The city, working with the Education Partnership's After School Alliance, has plans to create a series of neighborhood hubs where students can take art and music, do their homework, use the library or work out. The goal is not to create new programs but to get existing community groups to work together.

If the School Board decides against the proposal, Jackson said the City Council can proceed without the board's approval.

"We have power over them," he said. "What they need to learn is that we direct the financial responsibility for the city, not them."

Simmons said the state will pick up 80 percent of the cost of the $42 million bond, which leaves the city responsible for $8 million for all projects, amortized over a 20-year period. At last week's School Board meeting, school finance director Mark Dunham estimated that it could cost $200,000 annually to run the complex.

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