Richmond Community Schools board members informally support buying McBride Stadium, saying the purchase could benefit students as well as the community.
After members asked questions of RCS officials at their Oct. 10 work session, they indicated interest in finalizing a purchase agreement with the City of Richmond and its parks department.
RCS would need to supplement the proposed $12,000 price with hundreds of thousands of dollars of investments in future years.
Chief Operations Officer Karen Scalf said she provided conservative estimates for the renovation in case unexpected projects arise. Those estimates are $551,000 for year 1; $302,000 for year 2, which includes potential expenses for the softball team moving there; and $100,000 to $275,000 annually.
RCS’ attorney, Ron Cross, said he had been hopeful the agreement could be voted on at the board’s 5:30 p.m. Oct. 18 meeting, but isn’t sure that’s possible.
Cross said the ball isn’t currently in RCS’ court, but issues are being narrowed, and he wasn’t aware of any “deal killer.” He said resolving the issue by October’s end would be “conducive to our best interest.”
Cross also said several additional matters would need to be finalized such as an environmental study between a purchase agreement and closing.
EXPLORE: Click the image below to view the presentation slides shown to the RCS board about the purchase
Board members Brad Walton and Peter Zaleski said they’d spoken with several members of Richmond Education Association, the district’s teachers’ union, and they were all in favor of the purchase.
Walton, who owns a construction company, said it’s sad to see the stadium’s current condition and believes the district has limitless opportunities for the property and can “make a gem out of it.”
Superintendent Curtis Wright said the renovations could “bring back a community’s home base.”
Member Aaron Stevens noted the facility’s rich history in offering baseball, wrestling and other recreational events through the decades, when the then “magnificent” stadium drew regional and semi-state contests.
Stevens presented questions from taxpayers affiliated with Seton Catholic High School, which also rents the stadium. They wondered whether they could still have games and practices there and whether fees would be similar.
Deanna Beaman, who oversees the Richmond Jazz collegiate baseball team and its related nonprofit foundation, attended the meeting to learn more. She said the Jazz have several September, October and November deadlines for participation in Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League, and because of McBride’s uncertain future, the team paused its 2024 plans.
Board members Nicole Stults and Walton said they welcome the Jazz to return.
Scalf said she foresees few changes in access for those currently using the stadium. As word spread about RCS’ interest in the property, Scalf already has received multiple requests to rent out adjacent fields for practices during different seasons. RCS currently rents some of its facilities to the public, offering varying prices depending on nonprofit status.
Member Kym Pickering spoke with someone connected to a regional travel team who was pleased about RCS’ potential purchase. Pickering expects some teams might want to be based at McBride and/or host tournaments there.
Cross said he also sees potential to increase McBride’s usage if RCS improves the property’s condition. RHS can’t get some home-and-home contracts from fellow North Central Conference schools because they don’t want to come to McBride.
“It’s like a dagger in your heart,” Cross said.
Member John Weber said he believes RCS needs to move forward ASAP with the purchase but wants more long-term planning information and believes a lot of board input is needed throughout the process.
The softball team moving to McBride could free land for tennis courts that currently have expensive ongoing water issues.
Several officials noted the importance of community partners and baseball alumni providing everything from knowledge, financial support and/or volunteer hours for the renovation. Scalf said RCS has experienced maintenance staff who could reduce some of the costs.
Because of McBride’s deteriorating condition, Cross said RCS began looking at those facilities and possible alternative facilities for baseball about five years ago. The district did not initiate this round of purchase discussions.
A version of this article appeared in the October 18 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.