Hazel Park High begins upgrading athletic complex

Comprehensive construction project will wrap this fall

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published April 11, 2013

 The track at Hazel Park High School has deteriorated to the point where a strong wind can cause bits  of loose material to flap in the wind. A bond issue voters approved last year will pay for the replacement and repair of the track, along with the rest of the aging athletic complex.

The track at Hazel Park High School has deteriorated to the point where a strong wind can cause bits of loose material to flap in the wind. A bond issue voters approved last year will pay for the replacement and repair of the track, along with the rest of the aging athletic complex.

Photo by Deb Jacques

HAZEL PARK — The track at Hazel Park High is so dilapidated that meets can no longer be held there. Yet the track is just one part of an aging athletic infrastructure that is falling apart and in dire need of repair. 

The time has come to update not just the track, but also the tennis courts, baseball and softball diamonds, football and soccer fields, and the scoreboards, lighting, fencing, bleachers and other features dating back decades.

Work on the athletic complex began mid-April and is expected to continue through Sept. 15. In addition, work on infrastructure for technological advancements will begin this summer, increasing data speed and setting the stage for new tech in classrooms district-wide. Roofing and parking lot repairs or replacements are also in the cards.

The construction budget for the athletic complex is around $2.6 million. All bond work should be done by the end of 2014. In the meantime, the district is working on relocating all athletic events for this spring and summer.

The work is the result of two proposals that voters approved last August. The first measure was an $8 million bond to buy new technology and to improve the schools and athletic facilities. The tax levy will be repaid throughout 20 years.

The second measure was a building and site sinking fund, raising roughly $304,340 each year for five years. This money can only be spent on fixing and maintaining existing facilities; it cannot be used for operating costs or other expenses, such as teacher, administrator or staff salaries.

All told, voters approved 3.1 mills between the school improvement bond and the building and site sinking fund. The district gets $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value, times the millage rate.

Fred Nix is the owner’s representative for the district during the renovation process. He has been with the district a long time, attending Hazel Park schools as a student before returning as a teacher and coach and then working his way up to administration.

“I’ve seen the facilities come and go since I was a little kid,” Nix said. “The present athletic facility was brand new back in 1960, which was my freshman year of high school. At the time, it was a cinder track. The first upgrade to the track was in the ’70s — one of the first in Oakland County to get an all-weather track, which is a blacktop with a rubber coating.

“But being the first ones on the block to get the new stuff means we’re the first for our stuff to become old, and that’s what happened,” he said. “In time, it became a point of trying to maintain things, yet they fell into disrepair. The track was the main springboard for people to start looking around and realize it’s not just the track — we have other problems, too.”

Now the district is moving to fix them.

At the baseball and softball fields, the following items will be new or replaced: the backstop, field drainage, dugouts, infield soil mix, sod, irrigation, bleachers, batting cage, field fencing, scoreboard, flagpole, storage unit, bases, concrete areas (as needed) and bullpen. The baseball field will also have a new or replaced press box.

For the football field and soccer field, new or replaced items include new lighting, from eight poles to four poles with energy-saving fixtures; soil, sand and concrete sub-surface to support new turf; a low-maintenance artificial turf, as opposed to grass turf; the relocation of an electrical transformer; fencing as needed; and the scoreboard.

At the tennis courts, new or replaced items include soil, sand and asphalt sub-surface, as well as a new playing surface, practice boards, fencing, security lighting, concrete (as needed), and nets and posts.

A new multi-purpose practice area, some 70 to 80 yards of marked artificial turf, will be established between the baseball and softball fields, running east and west. This area is expected to be used by baseball, softball, football and soccer players, as well as the marching band program and physical education classes.

After the demolition of every item, except the entry structures to the campus and the visitor and home bleachers, everything from the subsoil to the fencing will be replaced, with the entirety of perimeter fencing between the apartment complex to the north and the neighboring homes on the east being replaced by a new 8-foot chain-link fence.

In addition, a new 6-foot fence will span the complex along Hughes in most areas, with some 4-foot crowd-safety fencing installed around the baseball and softball backstop area along Hughes, as well.

There is also talk of possibly incorporating storage facilities for sports and maintenance equipment. 

Jamie Knapp, principal of Webb Elementary, and head of the citizens committee that headed up the bond issue, said there was initially some question as to whether certain athletic facilities would be located on campus, but the way it worked out, everything is going to be centrally located at Hazel Park High.

“Everything will be on campus, so we won’t have to travel for practice,” Knapp said. “We’re just so appreciative to the citizens of Hazel Park because they came through for our schools, our kids and our community by passing the bond. It’s an exciting time.”