Study: Spalding site would boost price tag
CHAMPAIGN — Consulting engineers estimate the cost of building a new Central High School in the Spalding Park area will be $45.8 million more than building near Interstate Drive in north Champaign.
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The engineers attribute the additional costs at Spalding Park to the price of acquiring and demolishing the former Judah Christian School and nearby homes, and building a taller school building, along with a parking deck and underground stormwater detention vault.
Personnel from Gorski Reifsteck and DLR Group presented the results of their studies of the two alternative sites at a community meeting Tuesday night.
More than 90 people turned out at the Central High School library to take part in the meeting.
Jason Lembke, senior associate for DLR Group, said both options would call for a high school accommodating 1,700 students.
While the site near the intersection of Interstate Drive and Neil Street could be built in its entirety in a single phase, the Spalding Park site would likely have to be developed in two phases.
Construction of the first phase would take place on property already owned by the school district, Champaign Park District and current Judah Christian School.
Construction of phase two would take place on properties yet to be acquired by the district, including some homes and possibly some commercial spaces.
If the school board opts to build along Interstate Drive, the new high school would feature 1,225 parking spaces, including 925 spaces dedicated for football games and other events.
Preliminary plans presented Tuesday night show the north side of the property featuring two soccer fields, a practice field, two baseball diamonds, two softball diamonds and eight tennis courts.
The north end of the property would also include space for on-site stormwater detention.
A combination football/track facility would be constructed on the east side of the site, with a three-story high school built on the south side.
If the school board opts for the Spalding Park site, two soccer fields and eight tennis courts would be built on the site of homes and businesses north of Judah Christian School.
Instead of two baseball and softball fields, single baseball and softball diamonds would be built roughly where Judah Christian now sits.
A four-story high school building would be built east of Harris Avenue because less land is available than with the Interstate Drive option.
East of the high school would be a combination football/track facility and a four-story parking deck featuring 625 parking spaces.
The school district would need to get a variance from the city to have only 625 parking spaces.
Dennis Bane, principal of DLR Group, said the Spalding Park site would cost $45.8 million more, including $24 million for the site itself and $21.8 million for the buildings.
Bane said the additional money would be needed to acquire homes and some commercial buildings and to demolish the Judah Christian building.
He said building construction costs would be 15 percent more for the four-story school building and four-story parking deck, as compared with the three-story building and ground-level parking proposed for Interstate Drive.
In addition, Bane said stormwater at Spalding Park would be retained underground in a concrete vault, possibly under the football field.
The school district still has a way to go before it builds a new high school at either location. Its biggest hurdle may be voters, who in November would need to approve a ballot question for a substantial property-tax hike to pay for a new Central High School and a renovated Centennial High School.
In April, school officials told The News-Gazette a brand-new Central at Interstate Drive would run the district about $80 million, according to "ballpark figures" from earlier studies the district has commissioned. A revamped Centennial could cost between $35 and $40 million.
"There are no perfect sites," said Superintendent Judy Wiegand. "There will be pros and cons to either site."
An electronic poll of 68 participants at Tuesday's meeting showed 78 percent preferred the Interstate Drive option, with 22 percent preferring to build at Spalding Park.
Lembke said it will take another seven to 10 days before the results of a telephone poll of registered voters in the district will be known.