Paul Hall, athletic director for Marietta City Schools, said the last tweaks to the stadium design are being made with the architectural team, and a vote on a final drawing — the last major vote before construction starts in November — will be during the board’s July 15 meeting.
“We’ve met with all our contractors and architects and they’ve presented us with three different options,” said Hall, who played football in the stadium from 1986 to 1988. “Now we’re trying to get the final plan down to meet the budget that we have.”
The school system is working through the renovation plans and will receive the final stadium drawing around July 8. The drawing will be posted on the MCS website and in local publications. Public comment will be taken before the vote.
In April, the board first looked at three different possibilities for what the 74-year-old stadium could look like.
One, a budget version, came in at about $6.5 million. The second possibility checked in at an estimated $11 million and a version with all the bells and whistles would cost $15 million.
While impressed with the most expensive version, the school board agreed to set a $10 million target for the renovations. It hopes to finalize the stadium’s features next month.
“They will have alternatives built in that we can pick and choose or not choose depending on budget,” said school board Chairman Randy Weiner. “Once we set our guaranteed maximum price, it will not go over that figure.”
Atlanta-based Gardner, Spencer, Smith, Tench and Jarbeau is the architect for the project at a cost of $300,000. LaGrange-based Torrance Construction is building the project.
The first $6.5 million in the budget will come from sales tax dollars. The rest will come from the system’s building fund.
The stadium opened in 1940 at a cost of $25,000, or $409,875 in today’s dollars. It sits next to what is now Marietta Middle School.
Though residents enjoy the historic aspects of the stadium, its cramped quarters create logistical problems. Hall said some visiting teams refuse to bring their bands to the stadium because of the difficulty getting students in and out and the lack of space to warm up. The narrow field also can be a safety issue for players when they run out of bounds.
“Probably the No. 1 thing is getting a little more field space around the sidelines,” Hall said. “That’s for safety reasons, obviously.”
Northcutt Stadium’s field will be widened as part of the renovations.
Hall said the visitor’s stands will also be completely torn down and replaced. New bathrooms and locker rooms will be added and there will be a new entrance on Cleburne Avenue.
School board member Jill Mutimer said she thinks those changes are among the most vital aspects of the renovations.
“The most important things to me in the stadium were the infrastructure, like the new plumbing, the new electrical, the new bathrooms and locker rooms throughout the stadium, but especially the visitor’s side,” Mutimer said. “The visitor’s side is in really bad shape, crumbling would be a word. There are inches of water in the bathrooms when it rains. It’s not acceptable.”
Mutimer admitted infrastructure improvements are expensive and not very exciting, but said it’s a good investment.
Other new amenities
The renovations likely will also include tearing down the True Blue room, which sits on the side of the home stands closest to Polk Street. Its functions would be replaced by a two-story, 100-foot-by-20-foot press box on top of the stadium. An elevator will lead to the first floor of the press box, which Hall said will have a kitchen and can host functions like Hall of Fame inductions or Teacher of the Year ceremonies.
Previous stadium renderings show the True Blue room replaced with open-air space, which Hall said could be filled with plaques and a hall of fame plaza.
No plans will be finalized until after the vote, but Hall said one feature not likely to make the final cut is collegiate-quality grass.
“It’s just going to be a regular high school field, basically what it is now,” he said.
Hall added that better drainage can be attained through performing routine maintenance on the existing field.
The scoreboard could move from the corner of the visitor’s stands to the middle of the end zone, according to Hall, and could include a video board with instant replay capabilities.
However, Hall said a top-of-the-line video board and sound system could add between $200,000 and $300,000 to the final cost.
Hall said he hopes a video board will be included in the final design.
“We’ll try to fit it in,” Hall said. “There will have to be some tough cuts made. It won’t be fun, but it’s part of it.”
The team has scheduled its home games early in the 2014 season so construction can begin in November. Hall also lined up MHS’ home games toward the back of the schedule in 2015 to allow a few more weeks of construction.
He said if the team qualifies to host a home game in the 2014 playoffs the construction can be delayed by a few weeks in order to host the game and still finish on time.
Yet another feature the board will have to decide on is whether or not to build the stadium up to a 6,000-person capacity. Georgia High School Association rules state that in order for a high school to host a semifinal playoff game, the stadium must hold at least 6,000 people, measured by 24 inches per seat.
The current capacity is 5,300. The first eight rows of the stadium will be removed to widen the field. To compensate, between eight and 14 rows of aluminum bleachers will be added to the top of the stands. Hall said that between 10 and 12 rows is most likely, but it will be enough to reach 6,000 capacity.
Some schools bring in portable bleachers to reach the seating capacity requirements, but Hall said that isn’t an option at Northcutt because of its tight quarters.
Weiner said he wants to make sure the stadium doesn’t get too tall.
“We wanted to see how it would look,” Weiner said. “It will increase the depth of the stadium considerably comparing eight rows to 14 rows, so we’ll see how it looks and what it will cost. You can’t get a feel until you actually look at a set of plans. It will raise the height considerably. It’s in the middle of a residential area, so you want to somewhat blend in. We don’t want a monstrosity.”
With the details inching toward finalization, Hall said he can’t wait to see the finished product at the end of next year.
“To me the appearance of it when you see the entrance from the back, the added room and updated facilities, I’m just fired up about it,” Hall said.
“It’s tough because as the athletic director that played there, there’s an emotional side of me that’ll always be with Northcutt. It’ll be changed now but you’ll also keep the feel, the tradition, the same location. I’m excited about it. It’ll be a tough process, you’ll never make everybody happy. But it’s something that needs to be done and it’ll be a fun process.”