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Shepherd stadium changes hike pricetag

September 15, 2000

Shepherd stadium changes hike pricetag



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W. Va. - State Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson and some residents of this town are at odds over who is to blame for cost overruns of at least several hundred thousand dollars to the new $2.5 million Shepherd College football stadium being dedicated today.

Doyle said the overruns are partly the result of changes made to the original plans for the stadium in response to residents' objections.

"The cost increase was in the amenities, which was done to satisfy the objections of some of the neighbors," Doyle said.

A new aluminum press box for $20,000 turned into an $800,000 brick press box, concession stand and restroom facility, Doyle said.

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In addition, he said the stadium's neighbors felt the original plan would detract from the city's historic nature.

Bob Keller, who lives behind the new stadium and was one of those pushing for changes, agrees there were objections to the original plans.

"The original stadium looked like Hoover Dam," Keller said.

But, Keller said, "This was all John Doyle's idea. His plan, his agenda, totally, nobody else's.

"We didn't tell them how to make the changes. We didn't tell them how to spend one cent," Keller said. "If he underfunded it, it's his fault.

"What drove this up was all the accouterments, the ruffles and flourishes, the new flagpoles, the fancy press box, the sound system that's going to blast us out of our house," Keller said.

The original legislative appropriation two years ago was $1.25 million. But a more realistic starting point would be $1.8 million, said architect Greg Williams of Charleston.

The legislative Budget Digest provided $900,000. The digest, which contains budget funds requested by legislators but not publicly voted on, has been attacked by critics as a source of pork barrel projects, and is under legal challenge.

Doyle serves as vice chairman of the House Finance committee and is one of a dozen lawmakers who vote on the digest.

"This is pork, pure pork," said Keller.

Doyle agreed the Budget Digest process should be changed, but said the stadium will help Shepherd attract more donors to the school. Good athletic programs support many other college programs, he said.

New bleachers - more than 4,500 seats are now in place - and new restrooms to replace the four portable toilets used at games will upgrade the facility for fans, said Doyle.

Williams said some increased costs could be attributed to changes to accommodate residents. But the biggest chunk, $200,000, was to add 600 more bleacher seats, making the stadium big enough for playoffs.

A new sewer line and re-seeding the field were among other costs, Williams said.

Not all residents support the additional seating.

Diane Suttenfield, a member of the Historic Shepherdstown Commission, said the old stadium was never full, even with 1,500 seats. Many fans came and sat on the grass to watch.

"That was part of the fun of it," she said. "I don't believe there are going to be 4,500 people going to a game.

"I'm very upset about it. Why did they have to get this fancy? I don't think all this was necessary," Suttenfield said.

"Look at all the other things the college needs. Yet we get this stadium, when athletics are probably not that important to the college."

Shepherd President David Dunlop said the college is in the midst of almost three dozen facility improvements. Although he understands the argument that the college should be spending its money to enhance its academic mission, he supports the stadium as a good addition to the campus.

"Are you going to have a football program or aren't you?" he said. "And if you are, you need to have one that doesn't embarrass you."

Doyle said the stadium upgrade was badly needed. He also said it was built to fulfill a promise made to football Coach Monte Cater when he was hired that a new facility would be built.

But the college did not go overboard, he said.

"This is not the best and it's not the worst," Dunlop said. "We built it in the middle."

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