Dalton Stadium field ready, use hoped for soon

Ryan Anderson/Daily Citizen-News

"We've had some rough weather lately, (but) the field itself is complete" at Dalton Stadium, a new facility on the campus of Dalton Junior High School and The Dalton Academy, said Rusty Lount, Dalton Public Schools' director of operations. "We're going to try to get kids playing there ASAP," although the stadium isn't expected to be complete until late February or early March. 

Dalton Stadium, which includes the new, state-of-the-art soccer, football and lacrosse field on the campus of The Dalton Academy and Dalton Junior High School, should be completed by late February or early March, Dalton Public Schools' director of operations said Monday.

"We've had some rough weather lately, (but) the field itself is complete," said Rusty Lount. "We're going to try to get kids playing there ASAP (as soon as possible)."

The field, which meets FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) soccer size requirements, will "probably be one of the largest fields between Atlanta and Knoxville," Tennessee, according to Lount. It's likely some colleges in the region will also ask to use the field on occasion because of its size.

The structure will be referred to as Dalton Stadium because it will serve several schools in the school system, as well as be utilized by the city's Parks and Recreation Department, said Superintendent Tim Scott.

It "looks great out there," said Matt Evans, chairman of the Dalton Board of Education.

The stadium, including bleachers to seat roughly 3,000, a press box and a concessions stand, "is going to be incredible," according to Matthew Mederios, principal of The Dalton Academy. "People will be blown away by it."

Also during Monday's Dalton Board of Education work session, Lount discussed other capital projects, such as the construction of a field house at Hammond Creek Middle School, bids for which are expected soon, and the school board members could vote on the project as soon as next month's meeting.

Dalton High School is slated to receive several enhancements as part of the school system's five-year capital projects plan, ranging from "changing out the bleachers and seating in the gym" to repaving the parking lot and renovating the cafeteria, Lount said. All that work would start this summer, with some likely continuing into the fall.

Wimberly Brackett started working on the Dalton High cafeteria project in August 2018, so "I'm so excited to see this finally happen," said Dalton Public Schools' director of School Nutrition. This summer tables will be replaced, new paint will be applied, and booths will be added to increase capacity.

"We're sticking with a red, white, black and gray" color scheme to "look more modern," and decorative flourishes will highlight both the school's athletic and fine arts accomplishments, she said. A large Catamount head will adorn the rock wall on one end of the cafeteria, while a full-body red Catamount will patrol the concessions stand across from the gym.

Palmer Hamilton, based in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, will provide the furniture and other items for $408,000, which will be paid for out of School Nutrition's budget, Brackett said. Palmer Hamilton has worked on several remodeling efforts for Dalton Public Schools already, and the Dalton High cafeteria project is scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2022-23 school year in August.

This should be "awesome," Evans said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Also part of the school system's five-year plan is adding classrooms and improving heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) at Roan School in the summer of 2023, which could cost roughly $7 million, said Theresa Perry, the school system's chief financial officer.

A half-dozen additional classrooms at Westwood School (approximately $3 million) and roof and HVAC upgrades at Park Creek School (potentially $9.5 million) are also in capital plans for the next five years, with funding from the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST).

A SPLOST is a 1% sales tax on most goods sold in a county. School systems typically use their version to finance work like renovating current schools and building new ones.

The current five-year ESPLOST in Whitfield County, collections from which are shared by Dalton Public Schools and Whitfield County Schools, has a maximum collection of $98 million, and that figure could be reached, Perry said.

"We're at about the four-year mark" and "we're about $2.6 million higher than projected" for revenue so far.

Eligible Whitfield County residents will be able to vote on a referendum for a new ESPLOST in May, the maximum of which could be set anywhere from $127 to $138 million, Perry said. Based on enrollment, Whitfield County Schools would collect about 63% of the next ESPLOST, with Dalton Public Schools receiving roughly 37%.

"We'll encourage our constituents and stakeholders to help (educate) voters on why we need that referendum," Evans said. "We'll work with Whitfield County Schools on that."

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