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Pine Tree stadium, other projects from '11 bond near completion

By Melissa Greene mgreene@news-journal.com
May 15, 2013 at 11 p.m.


Come August, the Pine Tree Pirates should be taking to the field in a new flagship stadium amid a sea of pavement.

Surrounded by 20,000 yards of concrete for entry roads, a parking lot and circular drive, the 6,500 seat multi-purpose venue is on track to be completed by Aug. 23 - and under its $17.4 million budget, according to Superintendent T.J. Farler.

Pine Tree ISD officials gave a sneak peek of the facility Wednesday during light rainfall that construction workers ignored.

The athletic complex is part of a $29.9 million bond approved by a narrow margin of voters in 2011 that raised the total Pine Tree ISD tax rate from $1.38 to $1.51 per $100,000 valuation.

Renovations of high school classrooms and the theater are also nearing completion and were part of Wednesday's tour. The approved guaranteed maximum price for the renovations and the athletic complex is $23.9 million, approved by the board in September.

"The board has really worked together to maximize the project and maximize their budget," Farler said.

With cooler than normal temperatures this spring, construction crews have faced 46 weather days so far, according to architect Ken Kessler.

"Those aren't just days it has rained, those are days where it rained the day before and we couldn't get tractors in because of the mud or it was below freezing so we couldn't pour concrete," Kessler said.

There have been two change orders, Farler said.

One involved moving lighting from the 5-yard line nearer to the 25-yard line.

In the midst of 4,000 seats on the home side - and 2,500 across the field in the visitors stands - is a preferred area of 850 theater-style seats in Pine Tree blue.

"The letters 'PT' will be in the big picture of it," Farler said.

Entrance to the stands will be at midlevel, made possible because the lay of the land allowed for a bowl-shaped design.

"I know they struggled to find the right site to build this, but one of the advantages is we've got two school sites right here, and right behind the trees is Lear Park," Farler said. "It's a great site plan for the city for attracting events."

Kessler said the track is a bit more rounded, which is beneficial to runners and for being a soccer venue.

"When we did our first meetings with the community and architects, they really did what the people wanted," Farler said.

A specialized field events area for shot-put and pole vault is next door to the stadium.

"Our vision is to be able to hold district and regional events and maybe some of those summer competitive groups, so we wanted a maximized track facility," Farler said.

The complex features double track chutes and two high jump areas.

"Basically, everything is in pairs. Typically at a track venue, everything is singular. We've done double, so they can run boys and girls at the same time or run them twice as fast. There's double the normal event space," Kessler said.

At the south end is a new field house, a game-day facility that Farler said was designed to be unisex.

"So if you had a big girls soccer tournament, you could use either side," she said.

A two-story press box will hold a patio film deck on the lower level while coaches, scouts and media will be on the upper level. A community room will hold seating for 20 to 25 people for special events.

Daktronics was selected for the purchase of a video board that will be run by Pine Tree High School students from their new media room at the school.

Students will film commercials, run a video board and edit game highlights in two new broadcast journalism rooms adjacent to a new student media center, which also will house a print journalism center.

Other renovations at the high school on Pine Tree Road include a lab with Apple computers and two art classrooms, each with several pottery wheel stations.

A bistro with seating for up to 40 is also nearing completion, as is an adjoined culinary arts classroom featuring a full kitchen with walk-in cooler and freezer as well as an overhead camera that will project the teacher's movements in the demonstration area onto a flat-screen TV.

"They brought teachers in as the end users they know what works and what doesn't," Farler said.

In the 600 Hall, work continued on three labs and classrooms. New flooring, ceiling and paint adorn a revamped band hall and a multipurpose room.

"Choir dropped off a bit this year, but we've had some good conversations on how to improve it," said Principal Cindy Gabehart.

Farler said renovations in the theater at the high school have solved some compliance issues with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A larger, more accessible sound booth and reconstruction of the orchestra pit area allowed for a wider walkway. Several seats are removable, and along with spaces left open for wheelchairs, the theater that once held 450 now holds about 430.

Gabehart said about 200 students in theater, theater tech and jazz band will make good use of the new space.

Mary Dunn, a 2011 graduate, was along for the tour of the theater, which now features motorized lighting and curtains.

"All this motorized stuff is great. You used to have to use a pulley to move the curtain," she said. "And before it used to be kind of like a yellowy mustard color with dark blue seats."

Local area network upgrades that provide high-speed Internet at the intermediate, junior high and high school campuses were also included in the bond and have been installed.

"It's a real investment by the community. They have a really good vision not just for students today but in the future," Farler said.

The board has planned a discussion in a few weeks to review where the project is on the timeline and discuss finishing touches.

"You can do a real good job of planning, but when you get to the end there are a couple of things you want to look at," Farler said.

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