School board OKs stadium turf

A divided Rock Hill school board voted late Monday night to spend about $1 million on artificial turf and a bigger scoreboard for District Three Stadium.

The money comes from a $3 million-plus surplus from last fiscal year's budget.

Board members Jim Vining and Jason Silverman voted against the two items. Five others voted for them, ending a tedious discussion that stretched more than two hours. The final vote came shortly before 11 p.m.

Though he liked the ideas for the turf and scoreboard, Silverman said that as an elected official, he could not ignore the massive amount of feedback he received urging him to vote no. Silverman originally said he'd support the upgrades.

"Were it left up to me personally, I would love nothing better than to have a state-of-the-art District Three Stadium," he said. "The thing is, I don't think it's left up to me."

The debate over upgrades at District Three sparked a wave of controversy, with critics saying the money ought to be spent on academics.

Proponents, however, said turf would not only fix sometimes-rough field conditions, but also allow the stadium to be used more often by sports teams and marching bands.

It also could let the district rent or use the stadium for special events, tournaments and graduations.

"We have got a jewel and we have not opened it up to the community in a long time," said board member Mikki Rentschler.

The artificial turf, which the district hopes to install by next fall, will cost an estimated $700,000. The scoreboard will cost about $300,000.

A major selling point for the scoreboard was advertising dollars it could generate.

John Hair, a district associate superintendent, said he anticipates the scoreboard will bring in about $100,000 a year in ad revenue.

That money initially will be used to pay back the cost of the stadium upgrades, but then would become a revenue stream for the district.

The advertising money would be recurring revenue, which means it could be used to pay for something year after year. Because the money comes from a surplus, it could only be used for one-time expenses.

The school board also voted Monday to spend some of the surplus money on additional security cameras at school campuses and on buses, as well as on professional development. About $1.6 million of the surplus will be saved.