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Foundation kicks off fundraising for Armstrong sports complex construction | TribLIVE.com
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Foundation kicks off fundraising for Armstrong sports complex construction

Tribune-Review
| Wednesday, June 25, 2014 12:01 a.m
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An architectural rendering of the sports complex proposed for Armstrong Junior-Senior High School when it opens next year. Money to build the complex is being raised by the Armstrong School District Community Foundation.

A nonprofit organization kicked off a campaign on Tuesday to raise $10.6 million for construction of an athletic complex at the Armstrong Junior-Senior High School being built in Manor.

Since the $55 million school is expected to open next year, members of the Armstrong School District Community Foundation said they are on a fast track to begin fundraising to reach a goal of getting the complex done before students arrive.

Armstrong School District paid $600,000 for architectural design and other components of the complex because the foundation said they would do fundraising for construction. The complex was not part of the project when the construction of the school was approved in 2012.

“We were really reluctant to borrow money for a complex,” school board President Joe Close said. “We hadn’t discussed what to do about it before the foundation stepped in and offered to raise the money. I can’t say what we would have done if it weren’t for the foundation.”

Before construction starts, the school board and foundation will meet to discuss the donations and how to pay for getting the project underway.

“It’s very possible they’ll ask us to front the money, but we’d have to see what donations and donors are in place,” Close said. “We’ll have lots of discussion before committing to that.”

Meanwhile, the foundation will begin fundraising by meeting with businesses and donors to discuss naming rights, memorial donations, advertising and other pledges to build the complex.

While district officials have not broached where sports teams would play if the complex isn’t built, foundation President Kirk Lorigan said the obvious choice of using existing facilities is not a good option.

“Without this complex, kids will be racing to other campuses to go to practice in Ford City or Kittanning after school,” Lorigan said. “This will keep all of our activities on one safe, secure campus.”

The complex includes a 3,500-seat football stadium with artificial turf, a press box and eight-lane running track, baseball and softball fields, two areas for track and field events, six lighted tennis courts, a concession stand and field house, a soccer field and a parking lot big enough to accommodate 500 to 600 cars.

Requests for bids for the project were sent out in May but have not been reviewed by the school board. A Tuesday special meeting of the school board was canceled because some contractors were not available to go over bids they submitted.

“We haven’t gotten any formal notification from district administrators about the bids,” Close said. “If the bids came in too high, I’d imagine we would send it out for bid again to see if we can get any lower offers.”

Before the project was sent out for bids, initial estimates of construction costs were $8 million. The board hasn’t held any discussions of what would happen if the foundation’s fundraising efforts came up short, Close said.

“If they don’t hit their mark, we’ll have some tough decisions to make,” Close said. “I don’t know if the board would step up and fund a portion of the project, or if they’d even favor spending anything at all. We’re just going to remain optimistic and hope it all gets raised.”

To meet its goal of having the complex ready in some form — either finished or with select parts done — when school starts in fall next year, grading of the property would have to be done by November, with building starting in the spring, Lorigan said.

“There’s not much time,” he said. “But if we couldn’t get it started that quickly, the project isn’t dead in the water. We’d continue moving forward. We’ll have to see what kind of financial commitments we have at that time and work with the school board.”

Foundation board member Clem Rosenberger said he hopes the school and athletic complex will serve to showcase the district and central Armstrong County.

“There are a lot of good things taking place,” Rosenberger said. “A facility of this type could be beneficial for the growth of Armstrong County. It’s going to take the entire community to make this happen.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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