Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools officials are juggling locations and times for next school year’s activities, when the stadium will be unavailable for about a year while construction is underway on a new facility.
Jill Elliott, assistant superintendent, said a lot of planning was underway to lay out a plan that would support the athletics teams and the music program while the stadium is out of service.
Superintendent Steve Barrett said the new stadium would be ready for the 2023-24 school year.
Construction on the main campus will begin in the fall and construction on the athletic fields adjacent to Blacklick Elementary School will begin in June, said Judy Hengstebeck, district communications coordinator.
No interruptions to basketball teams and other gymnasium activities are expected, with events continuing during construction, she said.
On October 27, 2021, Jefferson Township administrators unanimously approved the rezoning of 10.59 acres along Reynoldsburg-New Albany Road to allow development of an athletic complex.
The property is northwest of the intersection of Havens Corners and Reynoldsburg-New Albany roads.
Hengstebeck said actual stadium construction will begin just after Labor Day, when the current stadium will be closed for athletics and the band for about a year.
According to a recent schedule, she said, this would allow two home football games to be played at the current stadium before construction.
Gahanna Lincoln High School principal Jessica Williams and athletic director Kathryn Harris will work with the various teams to determine if senior night will take place on the field before the stadium closes, Hengstebeck said.
At a special school board meeting on Feb. 8, Elliott told members the district has a draft plan that has evolved and will continue to evolve to show what the next school year might look like in terms of venues. activities, practices and home events that usually take place at the stadium.
She said district leaders recently met with students and shared what is special and important to them about being able to play in their stadium and perform in front of their audiences and friends.
“We have tried to come up with a plan that will help accommodate each group,” she said. “We worked with athletic director Kathryn Harris and (district business manager) Scott Lofton. We collaborate with other local organizations. And one of the things we’ve heard from students, again, is the closeness, the importance of being at home. … One of the things we tried to do was come up with a plan to keep them in Gahanna as much as possible.”
Jaden Yates, a junior who plays soccer, said he was disappointed he couldn’t finish his high school career playing on his home turf.
“I played on this pitch for three years, I spent four,” he said. “I’ve spoken with Superintendent Barrett and others about it. It’s more than just tearing up a lot. We understand that future generations will benefit greatly from the new facilities. There’s an attachment that goes with it. I I’ll be playing football for hopefully a very long time as the division I’m recruiting in. There’s a reason I and others are passionate about it.
If the Lions play home games at Otterbein University as planned, Yates said, it’s a field with another team’s logo.
“It’s another team’s house,” he said. “Otterbein is not my home.”
Yates said the seniors’ night out at Gahanna Stadium before construction began would be positive.
“It helps a bit, but it just won’t be the same,” he said. “I understand that there are people at the end of the day who make these decisions. I’m just giving my opinion and at least hope they can reconcile with us.”
Elliott said the district is working closely with Otterbein, so home games can be played on college grounds.
“We also partnered with Dominican University in Ohio who couldn’t accommodate because they have another high school team that plays in their stadium on Fridays,” she said. “That’s what made Otterbein the best choice for this particular sport. Middle School East Stadium would be the venue for JV and freshman football games. We’d be sure to check this stadium out We talked a bit about seating placement and how to accommodate these sports for this temporary solution.
Elliott said the base high cost of renting facilities at Otterbein for football games is $15,150, but university officials have indicated they would be willing to work with GJ at a reduced rate. .
“We expect the cost to be lower,” Elliott said.
She said the district plans to have the Blacklick Athletics Complex open in the fall.
“It’s intended accommodation for boys and girls football,” she said. “We have backups (college locations) if for some reason it doesn’t.”
College football teams also have the option of using Thompson Park, 5600 Thompson Road in Columbus, she said.
Elliott said there is a home placement for the cross-county at Middle School West Stadium.
“But collaborating with the coaches, they felt they didn’t need that,” she said. “They really wanted high school to remain their home base, and of course they would roam the community and meet in appropriate places for their training.”
Tennis practices and home matches are also scheduled at the Blacklick Complex, as are lacrosse practices and competitions.
Athletics training is scheduled at the Middle School West stadium, with home competitions being held.
For the group’s Monday night practice, Middle School West Stadium has been tentatively scheduled.
If transporting instruments is problematic for Monday nights, Elliott said, a parking space has been identified at the high school for fifth-period band practice and evening events.
She said district officials have looked at the number of buses groups might need for transportation, as well as mileage and fuel prices by location.
She said the shipping estimate is $29,290; temporary lighting at Middle School West Stadium to support evening events, $45,000; and storage containers for equipment, $2,250.