Potential relocation of Dozier Field proves controversial for Park City School District
Two community meetings in which the Park City School district gathered input on its large-scale master planning project have made clear residents are most concerned with one particular aspect of the proposal: moving Dozier Field.
"There’s no question that is one of the most contentious issues in this process," said Rory Murphy, a resident who is serving as co-chair of the district’s master planning committee. "Any time you’re making a major change that is going to directly affect people, you’re going to see a reaction to it, and I can’t say that I’m at all surprised by the reaction there has been to the proposal of moving Dozier Field."
The proposal calls for the construction of a new wing on the high school so it can accommodate ninth graders, who are set to attend the school under the district’s recently changed grade structure. The wing would be placed where Dozier Field currently sits, making it necessary to tear down the field and move it to the site of Treasure Mountain Junior High, which would be demolished.
An athletic facility that would include a new basketball gym and locker rooms for various sports is also included in the proposal and would be located near the new Dozier Field.
But the plan has elicited vocal critics at both community meetings — as well as a pair of informal neighborhood meetings — who say tearing down Dozier Field doesn’t make sense.
Many contend moving the field and building an athletic facility near it would decrease property values in the surrounding neighborhoods due to the stadium’s lights, noise on game days and a traffic increase in the area.
"That’s not fair to people in (east) Park Meadows, people in Prospector and Chatham Hills and Chatham Crossing who bought their property when there was a school there, not a football field," said Joe Cronley, a Park Meadows resident who has been a vocal critic of the district’s plans.
Murphy said the district has ordered a study that would help determine what the effects the field would have on homes in the area and on nearby wetlands. However, the district has not yet analyzed the study.
Residents have also expressed worry about the cost of moving Dozier Field. According to district documents, moving the field would take around $3.2 million, but Cronley said that doesn’t reflect the fact the field was renovated with upgraded turf within the last few years.
"For them to say now to scrap that and that the new plan is to bulldoze that down and move it to another site doesn’t make a lot of sense," he said.
An outspoken contingent of residents who live near Treasure Mountain Junior High has urged the district to explore other options for an addition to the high school that wouldn’t require moving the field.
Murphy said the district is responding to those criticisms. The master planning committee is trying to determine if any of the other proposed alternatives are viable. The alternatives include building the wing to the north or to the east or constructing an additional level on part of the school.
But there are problems with each of those solutions. Putting the wing to the north would require moving dirt from previous construction to the high school, which could be expensive, while building to the east is difficult because the Eccles Center would separate the wing from the rest of the school. Murphy said that may be the least plausible of the proposed solutions.
"It’s certainly not off the table, but it’s not looking that practical right now," he said.
Murphy added expanding the school to the south, onto what is currently a parking lot, is also being considered. However, that would require creating additional parking elsewhere, as a lack of adequate parking is already an issue on campus.
Some residents have said building a school for fifth and sixth graders on the site of Treasure Mountain Junior High and putting the athletic facilities elsewhere is the best option. Murphy said the district believes the best location for that school, however, remains near Ecker Hill Middle School and he doesn’t anticipate that changing.
"Ecker has become the obvious site," he said.
If the district develops an alternative plan to moving Dozier Field, there is not a timeline for when that plan may be shown to the public, Murphy said. However, the district is facing a tight deadline. The master planning committee must make a recommendation to the Park City Board of Education regarding the proposal on August 11, so the board can vote the following week on whether to put a bond on the ballot in November if necessary.
Murphy hopes to have solutions soon, but said meeting the needs of the district, while also ensuring the plan is what’s best for the community presents a daunting challenge.
"It’s been enormously complex and incredibly difficult to balance that," he said. "I still think there are a lot of concerns to be addressed and still a lot of dialogue to have."
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The South Summit Board of Education voted 4-1 to put a bond measure on November’s ballot asking for $87 million to build a new high school.