Old high school athletic facilities could be new regional sports center
by Mike Eldred
Sep 13, 2012 | 3102 views | 2 2 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHITINGHAM- Local soccer guru John Langran met with Whitingham and Wilmington school board members this week to pitch his idea to use the current Twin Valley High School athletic facilities now and after the consolidation.

Although Langran admitted that his passion was for soccer, he said his plan would bring in a variety of regional sporting events. “I think it has to be broad-based,” he said. “That building and land present Wilmington with enormous potential, not just to put Wilmington back together, but to push it forward. If we do nothing, (closing it) will leave a huge dent in the local economy.”

Langran said his effort would bring more people into the community for sports events, something that would dovetail with the valley’s focus on skiing – sports tourism. “We need to start implementing things that are going to bring people in. (Tourism) will always be the great motivator for our local economy, and to get those people here we need to start looking further afield than just the local area.”

Langran said his vision for the gymnasium and sports fields after the consolidation was that of a regional sports complex. “There are a whole series of events that can happen on a week-to-week, month-to-month basis that would draw people from around the Northeast.”

Langran said he had recently discussed tae kwon do and mixed martial arts competitions with a local group and learned that people from the valley travel as far as Florida for national competitions. “There’s no reason we couldn’t start building events like that here.”

Langran said he was asking the board to give the go-ahead to start organizing and raising money. “If we can start raising money, and raise significant amounts, before we start looking for any grants, that will give us a tremendous boost. Nobody will give a grant to an organization that doesn’t look like it can succeed.”

As an indoor soccer facility, Langran said, the gymnasium would be one of many around New England “popping up like mushrooms.” The Wilmington facility would be located between a similar facility in Bernardston, MA, another under construction in Bennington, and an existing facility in Hoosick, NY.

The Bennington Sports Center, an indoor soccer facility, is being developed by Vermont Voltage, a Premier Development League team in St. Albans. Langran said he has stayed in close contact with the developers and his program will be closely affiliated. “It’s exciting for me to be connected to Voltage, and they moved south to (Bennington) to get the southern cone of Vermont in their effort to build professional women’s and men’s teams for Vermont. Now, for the first time, if we’ve got kids that are good at soccer, there’s a road straight through to professional play.”

For decades soccer has been the top sport at local schools, and interest in the sport remains high. “We put nearly 50 kids through our soccer program this winter,” he noted. “We expect to send seven or eight teams to Bennington and Bernardston. They’re interested in having us build a hub here.”

“John is being a little humble,” said board member Phil Taylor. “Last week was the first week of soccer and we beat the pants off Dover and gave Randy (Capitani, Dover coach) a heart attack.”

“I don’t think that will be the headline,” quipped Langran.

Langran said that, if there were no objections from the board, he’d draft a proposal for specific events to bring to the board.

“I don’t think there’s anything you’re proposing that doesn’t dovetail with any of the possibilities for that building that we’ve discussed,” said board member Dwight Williams. “Our scenarios have included the intention that the gym, locker room, and field would be available for events like this.”

But Whitingham Elementary/Twin Valley Middle School Principal Keith Lyman wondered if the events, some of which may begin before the consolidation, would have an impact on anyone at the school. “Who is going to manage the building? Who is going to make sure it’s open, or locked up? Is that going to fall on the school’s shoulders, or an outside organization that would be in charge?”

Taylor said it would “all be outside of the school.”

“The only thing we’d be asking you for is approval to use the building,” said Langran. “Everything from advertising through cleanup would be done by the people organizing the event. We still have to look into things like liability insurance and emergency medical care. I want to make this work, and make money. I don’t want to be hauled in front of someone and told that the place was left a mess. I think I can get together a group of people who are capable of succeeding without putting any onerous duty on the school.”

In other matters, the elementary school construction estimate, which initially came in $1 million over budget, is beginning to appear more manageable, Taylor told the board. “Now it’s about $150,000 to $200,000 over the draft budget,” he said. “We were concerned that there’s an extra 10% contingency in that, on top of the contingency we already have. All of that is uncommitted at groundbreaking.”

Taylor said some of the estimated bid prices appeared to be high. He said the initial amount over the budget is normal, and will continue to get whittled down as managers scrutinize the costs. “We’re steaming toward getting the plans finished, and then the idea is to get it out to bid and get some real bids. Right now, if we cut the sprinkler system and the replacement of windows, we’re back on track. But we don’t feel like we should be cutting those out.”

“I think your approach is right on,” said Twin Valley School Board Chair Seth Boyd, “and I think the bids were quite high.”

Taylor noted that construction managers hoped to get as many local contractors as possible “pre-approved” for subcontracting work on the project. “We want our local contractors and vendors to be as involved in this as possible,” he said.

Taylor said the construction team was still hoping to break ground in November. But work on the middle/high school is likely to be significantly delayed. “The work (at the middle/high schools) triggered an Act 250,” he said. “Their argument is that we’re increasing the enrollment of students by more than 10%, therefore it’s triggered. Right now we have to pick our battles, and if we tried to break ground here (in November) it would be way too fast, and we’re looking at groundbreaking in April for this site.”

“From a scheduling standpoint, that means it won’t be until August 2014 that this (middle/high school) building will be ready for students to come in. From a cost perspective, I think it makes sense to do a staggered transition.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Jonathan Meeks
September 13, 2012
Maybe there could be an indoor waiting area for MOOver passengers waiting for a ride to Brattleboro, Bennington, Mount Snow, or wherever. Right now they have to wait on a rock or block Shaw's patrons. Something to consider.
M Gilberg
September 13, 2012
The idea to use the "new" portion of the High School and the play fields into a Recreation Center whether for Wilmington residents or for a larger area is a natural use for thjose areas, while the "old" building might be converted into housing and/or flex and business incubator space.

Maybe the region could find an "angel" or two to contribute to building an indoor/outdoor natorium. It would make better sense than Wilmington's own bridge to nowhere.

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