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Board Proposes Indoor Athletic Complex at High School

The $3.8 million facility would be multi-purpose, able to house multiple activities simultaneously, and be open to the community, board members said.

Mahwah High School proposed building a new athletic facility. Credit: Jessica Mazzola.
Mahwah High School proposed building a new athletic facility. Credit: Jessica Mazzola.

Mahwah High School may get a new, 26,000 square foot indoor athletic complex next to its football field, if members of the Board of Education follow a recommendation made by one of its subcommittees Wednesday night.

At its regular meeting Wednesday, Facilities Committee Chair and Board Member Chuck Saldarini gave a presentation to the board on the proposed complex, which he said would contain dividable turf fields, five lanes of track, coaches meeting rooms, public restrooms and a new concession stand. The facility, Saldarini said, would be two stories, and would be able to house multiple activities – both athletic and extra-curricular – at once.

“There is a lot of competition for practice space,” Saldarini said. “You have teams that can’t start their practices until 5 p.m. because of the competition for space. A kid on one of those teams is looking at a really long day...This could help facilitate a tremendous amount of activity.”

Though Saldarini said his presentation was only preliminary, and designs would need to be further reviewed before they could be finalized, the current plan calls for the building to go in at the front of the football field. The upper level of the facility, which would be at ground level, would contain the bathrooms and snack stand, and the bottom level would contain partition-able practice space designed so that multiple activities could go on simultaneously.

“This would not be just for sports,” he said. “There’s marching band, color guard, a lot of other activities that could really use the space.”

The complex would also be open to the community, so non-school sports and activities and community events could be hosted there. The board said it would anticipate a lot of community participation in the complex because the high school field has been so popular with non-school groups.

Saldarini said if the board decides to go ahead with the project, it would take $3,825,000, and about 27 months, to build.

The money, he said, would be allocated from the district’s capital reserve fund, and not generated by new taxpayer dollars.

The project would take up about 40% of the district’s current capital reserve budget, but Saldarini said that would not impact any of the other long-term facilities projects it is working on, or has planned.

“This requires no new tax dollars whatsoever,” he said. It would be, “financed by monies that have carefully been put away over the last number of years.”

The funding set aside can only be used on capital improvements, he said. And, if the board decides to go ahead with the proposal, it would not require a town-wide referendum vote.

Though there is no strict timeline for the implementation of the project, school officials said, if approved, the earliest it might go up is September 2015.

Board members brought up several questions about the complex Wednesday night, including whether or not it would require adding additional parking and an elevator, if an indoor pool could be added to the plan, and if solar panels could be installed to help cut costs on running it once it is up.

The board said it would continue to discuss the proposal at its August meeting, but some members commented positively toward the idea.

“I think this is phenomenal,” Board President Tricia Shada said. “It would certainly be used by countless people and groups [in the schools and the community].”

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Randall B July 18, 2013 at 08:31 AM
Who is paying the tab on this the good old taxpayers again?
Richard Levine July 18, 2013 at 08:34 AM
This goes to show why this board needs to be investigated. When they should be planning austerity budgets, they are planning more and more large expenditures of taxpayer money. This is probably only the tip of the iceberg. How did they get along all these years without this facility? Their expansion and waste plans never stop. We should be thinking about reducing taxes, this board just does not get it!
JP July 18, 2013 at 08:59 AM
Thought we were trying to SAVE money? Let the developers at the mall build it there instead of the "athletic field" which no one seems to want now.
Ralph July 18, 2013 at 09:23 AM
Almost 4 million from the Capital Fund and not spending taxpayer money? Where do you think the Capital fund comes from, This is from the previous taxes that were collected and put in the Capital Fund. So the taxpayers are paying for this. This fund should be used for emergency's such as a new roof for a school ect. When you use those funds for those issues the taxpayer then will need to replenish it, so who is kidding who here. In addition it appears that the enrollment is going down so why do the taxes continue to rise. What a joke and shame on this school board.
Mike Kupchik July 18, 2013 at 09:35 AM
Will it have a quarter-million staircase like our library? How many champagne fountains will there be? Suggest our next project should be getting rid of any "public servant" lacking a "frugality gene." Taxpayers have about had it!
Mamma B July 18, 2013 at 10:03 AM
So happy the Board has set aside these emergency funds; however, shouldn't they be spent on something that will benefit all of the children? Not just the ones involved sports, which seems to be the driving force behind this board and district. A Board of Ed should be dealing with the Education of our children, not sports! This expenditure may not need the approval of the townspeople, but you can be sure we will not forget come Election Time!
William Hunt July 18, 2013 at 10:40 AM
First impression - not in favor of. If the plan is to use this facility for a variety of simultaneous events would like to hear if they plan on charging a fee and if so what kind of revenue they expect to generate. Also, aside from the nearly $4 million it will cost to build what will it cost to run annually - lighting, heating/air conditioning, maintenance, etc.
jek July 18, 2013 at 10:45 AM
This is great. They cut the hours of some Teachers Aides so they do not have to provide health benefits because they say money is tight. But they have money for this nonsense. If they are really there for the kids, maybe they should start in the learning environment where it counts, not with sports areas.
Andy Schmidt July 18, 2013 at 12:55 PM
Given the number and size of buildings, I think it's prudent and absolutely essential that the BOE is building up these kind of reserves. However, my main concern is that we first look at investing it into fixing leaking roofs (like the Ridge), and replacing expensive, outdated heating systems at Betsy Ross - where too few zones control south and north sides of the buildings. This causes kids being unable to concentrate while sitting in T shirts with windows open in the winter (!) (sending our heating dollars out that way), while the other half of the school is bundled up in jackets in freezing rooms. The result will be less cost to operate our schools! I remember the HSO (= parents) having to buy A/C window units at that school for the warmer months - so clearly there is a need to invest into our EXISTING buildings that are used for EDUCATION. Once that's done, let's see how much money is still left for new construction. I DO know that several township rec programs compete for school facilities throughout the year - so I can see how this would benefit kids of all ages. Ideally, the BOE would coordinate with the township/county (?) so that this building with all its amenities would have a 24x365 emergency generator to serve everybody in town as our official shelter during the next prolonged power outages. Those are certain to come, due to the ongoing climate changes challenging the country's pole-based infrastructure. As far as extracurricular activities go, I had gotten the impression that the trend have been for clubs had been eliminated in recent years for budgetary reasons (not just at the high school) - thus leaving plenty of now unused space elsewhere after school? I remember seeing a lot of after-school offerings in the various schools 10 years ago - and they all seem to have vanished. Besides we have the library seeking to rent out its community spaces that the recent upgrade created - hopefully we won't end up with redundant facilities?
Landano July 18, 2013 at 05:11 PM
Why not give every Mahwah High School student a free membership to New York Sports Club. If we build it, we have to maintain it. I wish they would think before making dumb ideas public information.
JP July 18, 2013 at 05:11 PM
How hypocritical. Every time we suggest using the reserves for lowering our taxes overall we get the story that reserves can't be touched to keep our credit rating up. Yeah and?! Sounds like someone on the council has another pet project, and unlike other PRIVATE projects that generate revenue, this one WILL cost the tax payers from then on in additional maintenance and police presence and who knows what other expenses in the future. But ok, put this one up for referendum also and see where this one goes Mahwah Council.
Andy Schmidt July 18, 2013 at 05:49 PM
Gosh JP, you're not just barking up the wrong tree - you're stuck in the wrong FOREST! This has NOTHING to do with the council's pet projects, or the township's credit ratings or the township's reserves... Once you READ the article, you'll be able to tell that this is the Board of Education (the Mahwah school system), which is a different, completely independent and much bigger entity (in personnel, budget size and all other respects) than the township. This is like going after Christie for the Pentagon budget! Time to sober up...
Kathy Errico July 18, 2013 at 05:49 PM
OK.. Lets spend this money on what SPORTS??? How about resurrecting some of the programs that were cut because the board claimed there was no money.. Fix the auditorium..
Mike Kupchik July 18, 2013 at 05:50 PM
If anyone uses the ploy "it's for our children," remind that idiot that right now, so is our ballooned national debt!
Pamela Stetson July 18, 2013 at 06:47 PM
This is a GREAT idea for the schools and the community ... hope it all works out!
Innocent Bystander July 18, 2013 at 06:55 PM
So, Andy indicates "JP" is an alcoholic and stupid too? Sounds like our newest "judge" could be a twice Obama-voter. Doubt if our own Anthony Gianni needs any assistant.
JP July 18, 2013 at 07:02 PM
Whether it's school budget or not Andy, it's still the citizen's tax dollars. Both yours and mine. I think you get the jest of my comments, right? No need for your condescending, crap attitude.
Andy Schmidt July 18, 2013 at 07:19 PM
JP - You're entire message is ranting about the Township Council for a discussion it never had, on a project it would have no involvement in, using funds that it doesn't control...? Using this fictional involvement, you then conclude this to be a "pet project" by the COUNCIL, and even stated "see where this one goes Mahwah Council". So - your entire message is targeting an entity that has ZILCH to do with any High School project!? And you REALLY don't see how you are completely off-topic? Sorry, bud (and the not-so "bystanding" innocent) - it truly does sound like you're not quite with it this time.
JMeyer July 18, 2013 at 11:21 PM
Okay, so let me get this straight...there was a huge hoopla over busing kids to school when it's dangerous on some roads to walk, there's a cutback with teachers' aides because of budget reasons, the auditorium in the high school looks awful and it's an embarassment, but yet there's plenty of money for a sports facility? This is a huge joke and it goes along with the rest of the jokes that go on in this school system. So glad we're moving out of here..good riddance.
Andy Schmidt July 19, 2013 at 12:04 AM
JP - let me quote your "comprehension" of this article was that "the council has another pet project", then you challenged "... see where this one goes, Mahwah Council". So you are beating up on the township council about a meeting THEY never had, regarding a project THEY are no part of, on a property the township doesn't own, using school system reserves the township doesn't control... and you (and the not so "bystanding" innocent) still don't see that you are completely on the wrong boat here? So no - it's so far off topic that there is no "jest" to possible "get"!
JP July 19, 2013 at 12:54 AM
Quit when you're ahead Andy. We're on the same side on this one albeit you wouldn't know it from the way you act.
Brandon Schwartz July 19, 2013 at 02:12 AM
As a former high school student and member of the Executive Student Council at MHS, this is a wonderful idea. Considering that Mr Saldarini said the monies would not be collected from new taxpayer dollars, I don't understand why people are complaining. Education is a HUGE priority towards hearing students towards good jobs and success; it starts in high school; not by mere academia but by enrichment, which is exactly what this new facility would do. Plus the outdated facilities are becoming hazardous due to age. This should have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the township, but with the school district.
Brandon Schwartz July 19, 2013 at 02:13 AM
Gearing*
Andy Schmidt July 22, 2013 at 11:37 AM
Hey Jessica - not to distract from the good points that are being made, can you please explain why the Patch decided to headline it as a "Athletic Complex" - when the proposal was actually for a "MULTI-USE Activity Building" (yes, multi-use DOES include phys-ed space as well.) I do understand that "catchy" headlines attract readers - but it's not the first time that I've sensed the Patch intentionally trying to incite a conflict (and thus "clicks", which increase ad-revenue) by being rather "inventive" in its choice of headlines?
Tommy Murphy August 01, 2013 at 01:32 PM
I am all for using current resources for upgrades to the school system. I rank additional sports facilities low on the list. Not when kids are asked to walk dangerous roads due to lack of funds for adequate bus routes and there still is not a full day kindergarten to help jump start kids education. Property values suffer when there are less young families willing to move into a town. Especially when the neighboring towns offer these things.

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