Opinion

Is stadium necessary?

Fort Mill is barely be able to build new schools fast enough to keep up with growth. But as voters face a spring referendum on a $98 million bond package for new schools and facilities, they might consider whether a new $8.7 million stadium for Nation Ford High school really is necessary.

The answer to that is not clear cut. There are pros and cons to both sides. But if the district wants to save some money, it might consider requiring both local football teams to play in the Fort Mill High School stadium.

That would not be an unusual solution. Both Rock Hill and Northwestern high schools have shared District 3 Stadium for decades. However, the district did build a stadium for the new South Pointe High.

A committee has recommended that the Fort Mill school district include auxiliary gyms for both high schools in the bond proposal. But if the district chose not to include a new stadium in the bond package, it could include a smaller facility on campus that could be used for track and soccer. That would be far less expensive than a new stadium.

Deciding not to build a stadium might be disappointing to students who attend the new high school. It would be tougher for Nation Ford's football team to forge its own identity if it had to play home games at the FMHS stadium.

Fort Mill also faces the likelihood that a third high school will be needed between 2011 and 2013, so having a second stadium in place might make sense. If so, however, it might be smart to build a free-standing stadium like Rock Hill's that could be used by different schools.

But while a football program can be an important component to any high school, we think school districts should not be chained to the old notion of one high school, one stadium. Many schools get by with sports programs that don't require a stadium. Many communities feature charter schools with no sports facilities at all.

One way for Fort Mill to resolve this issue in an equitable way would be to itemize its bond package so that voters could vote on the stadium separately. That way, voters who want new schools and other items in the package but don't want to pay nearly $9 million for a new stadium could vote against the stadium without risking defeat of the entire bond issue.

The district has time between now and next spring to take comments from the community and make a final decision on what the bond package will include. Because the stadium is more a luxury than a necessity, the best option might be to let voters decide that issue by itself.

IN SUMMARY

Fort Mill needs a new high school, but does it also need a second football stadium?

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