The improvements include adding aluminum decking and brace supports to reduce the swaying of the bleachers from left to right. The plans need to be drafted and then approved by the state. After that process, Dant Clayton will start the work.
Lisa Wick was the only board member to vote against the project. She wasn’t available immediately after Tuesday’s meeting for comment, but during the public participation, she expressed concern about the ongoing parking issue and using permanent-improvement levy money for any bleacher improvements.
Steve Traczek, president of the Norwalk Athletic Boosters, encouraged the board to consider building a new stadium. He said it should have been done when Norwalk High School was built in 2001.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Traczek said.
He said if the district invests money into Whitney Field, it would be bound to it for the next 20 to 30 years.
“As a personal note, I hope you’re not going to use taxpayer’s money on what would be another Band-Aid for Whitney Field,” Traczek added.
Rural Norwalk resident Kurt Livingston researched the deed for Whitney Field, saying there is no co-ownerhip between Norwalk City Schools and St. Paul High School. St. Paul uses the district-owned facility for the Flyers’ home football games.
“Of course we’re all here for safety,” said Livingston, who told the board he hoped the district had received three competitive bids for the improvement project.
Livingston also said he wants to be proud of Norwalk’s facilities, noting he’s heard from many local residents, visitors and visiting teams they don’t enjoy playing at Whitney Field.
Board president Kevin Cashen agreed with Livingston that the decision to build a new stadium shouldn’t be done in a hurry and there needs to be an in-depth investigation and community involvement. Cashen also said the research requires making informed decisions. He requested Superintendent George Fisk start the process of creating a long-term planning committee.
“I don’t see how in good faith we can put people in those (current) stands,” board member John Lendrum said. “What we’ve got there is not safe. I’m sorry; it’s just not.”
Lendrum said he has no problem with the possibility of a new stadium, but added the project could cost $1.5 to $2 million or more and take two to three years. He also noted it took the board two years of planning before it was ready to sell the idea of building NHS to the community and he expects a similar timeline for a stadium project.
“To do that, you’d need a lot of public support,” Lendrum said.