From the Bench: Options Prove Limited for Project at Jamison Field and Comes with Six-Figure Price Tag

By Jeff Toquinto on October 29, 2017 from Sports Blog via

Bridgeport High School Principal Mark DeFazio has never let dollars stand in the way of doing what he thinks needs to be done in the educational or extracurricular arenas of the school he heads. Whether it’s working with the community, the Harrison County School Board, business entities or some other avenue, DeFazio generally finds a way to get it done.
During his time at BHS, no financial hurdle has been too big.
That should be somewhat comforting. The next hurdle is a big one. In fact, it’s a six-figure one.
After research done by Travis Jones, “The Voice of the Indians” who is involved with BHS athletics on multiple fronts, hopes DeFazio discussed earlier this year and talked about in this blog to redo the press box with a full renovation have been scrapped.
“We had hoped to build up the press box and add a floor and then renovate what was already in place, but there’s no way we can build up on the press box without it actually costing more,” said DeFazio. “Therefore, we’re looking at plan B.”
Plan B is demolition of the existing press box that sits elevated over the field house. The very preliminary estimate is that it will be in the $200,000 range. It’s not the most desirable option, but it is another type of option.
“Really, that’s about the only option. The age and the building specifications it was built to when constructed shows that it cannot sustain another level,” said Jones. “In order to actually have it sustain another level, you’d have to bring it up to code and that would require tearing down walls and reinforcing everything, which would be more expensive and time consuming than demolition and replacement.
“That leaves us where we’re at,” he continued. “To move ahead the facility will have to be tore down and rebuilt from scratch.”
Jones and DeFazio said they have worked together with Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Matt DeMotto in discussing the project. Jones presented his findings recently after DeFazio had discussed the press box project several months ago as perhaps the final one he’d like to get started prior to a yet to be determined retirement.
“We’re aware that this comes with a price tag that’s a lot of money,” said DeFazio. “It’s something we need and we’d like to get it done because it needs done.”
While DeFazio is adamant this is going to take place, he was equally adamant that this is very early in the planning stages. He said this project could be done over two years – not the construction, but rather the fundraising and planning part could stretch it into a 24-month type of endeavor.
“Right now, we’re just in the discussion phase of where we want to go and the direction we want to take in pursuing funds,” said DeFazio. “Again, this is very preliminary. I think what we do see is that unless someone steps up with a huge donation that it’s going to be a two-year project.”
For those concerned with how the facility could be torn down and replaced in a period under a year, DeFazio and Jones both said it could be done. How it could be done is still up in the air.
“We’ll talk to construction folks and maybe architects before we determine anything concrete,” said DeFazio.
So why the need for the new press box? I utilize it and, for now at least even though I’m crammed into a corner and that’s thanks only to the generosity of Jones, it’s still functional.
There are, however, problems. More so than just the fact that it is a pretty significant eyesore in the middle of an otherwise gorgeous facility. DeFazio said that's one issue, but Jones hit on another key issue.
“First and foremost we’re out of space. At this point, we don’t have places for visiting coaches or film crews that have shelter so there up on the roof,” said Jones. “While that may not seem like much, the roof is in such poor condition we can’t build a shelter on the roof to eliminate that issue.
“The building is in bad shape and band aids aren’t working, but when you get down to it you have so many people in there now because it’s different from when it was built,” Jones continued. “You now need space for two radio crews for most teams, you have live video stream coverage, and there are more newspapers and even on-line news sources like Connect-Bridgeport. In the current press box configuration, we’ve run out of room.”
Ideally, fundraising wouldn’t need to be done. DeFazio said it’s always a hope when any project is started and officially kicked off that someone with philanthropic ideals will step up. While people and businesses usually step up, it’s rarely for the entire amount.
“We’ll do fundraising, but if someone comes forward and wants to contribute the entire amount we’ll certainly take that call or visit. Heck, if someone comes forward and wants to have the press box named in honor of someone or a business that’s something we’re willing to listen to,” said DeFazio.
The press box serves football and soccer primarily at the high school level. Lacrosse has participated there, while track primarily uses its own building that is another of the complexes first-class pieces. However, all sports utilizing Jamison Field would have access to the new box and also what they hope would be an area where guests – perhaps even paying customers – could sit and enjoy a contest from a comfortable area away from the elements.
“It’s all so early, but we will consider a place where guests can watch. We have a place now, but it’s not comfortable and it gets crowded when there’s a lot of media for certain games,” said DeFazio.
Jones said that unlike the turf and track that need upkeep and funds every 10 years (give or take a few years) that the press box is more of a long-term investment.
“This is going to be built to last for 50 or 60 years or even longer,” said Jones. “If you look at it in terms of years, the investment is easily worth the money.”
DeFazio said the community has always been receptive to help out when asked for all extracurricular activities as well as projects within the school.
“I know, because it happens every time we do a project, someone will want to know why we want to spend money on something that benefits athletics. The fact is that athletics and all extracurricular activities are the other half of education and we want our students’ experience in the classroom and while competing to be top notch in every facet,” said DeFazio.
And if money can’t be raised?
“Then we’ll have to do some repairs, but the problem won’t go away. The roof itself is a huge concern and that won’t be cheap if we fix it,” said DeFazio. “We want people to remember that no matter what we do, there’s always another project waiting. We have to make improvements every year or every two years because the longer you wait the more work that needs done and the more expensive it becomes to get fixed.”
Jones said, like DeFazio, he’s in this to see it to the end. And he doesn’t care what it takes.
“If it takes a year and a half or two years, so be it. Like so many projects I’ve seen during my time here, it’s all hands on deck,” said Jones. “The thing that’s always encouraging is you usually never see a shortage of hands wanting to take part.”
As the project moves ahead, barring a major donation those involved will be looking for volunteers and perhaps businesses to assist. If you want to help, DeFazio and the crew are ready to let you. DeFazio said to call him at 304-326-7137.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Mark DeFazio at a recent BHS home football game, while Travis Jones is shown doing his work inside the press box at Jamison Field. Third photo shows an aerial of the complex with the press box sitting above the field house to the left of the photo. It is just behind the red seats on the left and is the long black roof in front of the larger red roof that sits behind it. Bottom pictures show a view of the front of the box and the first room of the existing facility.

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