March 20, 2014By Kathy Ryan
After more than 50 years of service, the athletic fields at University Liggett School are showing their age. Now that school officials have decided to upgrade the 24-acre site on Cook Road, they're showing their age even more.
Plans for a two-phase, $14 million project were unveiled Thursday night by architects and landscape engineers to members of the Woods planning commission. Phase one centers on the athletic fields, and is estimated at $6 million, while the second phase involves construction of a new gymnasium next to the existing McCann Ice Arena, at a cost of $8 million.
School officials hope to begin construction on the fields by May 1, with completion slated for the fall sports season. Designs for the new gymnasium are still being developed, but officials hope to begin construction in 2015, with an opening slated for the fall of 2016.
The new design calls for the football field to be relocated from its current east-west placement to a north-south design next to the new Rivers development. The football field, with its artificial turf, will also double as the soccer and lacrosse field as well as the track and field area. Next to the football field along the back of the site and also running north and south will be the girls field hockey and lacrosse field, and next to that, the varsity baseball diamond. These fields will all be made of artificial turf.
Also running north and south along the back portion of the property will be natural grass fields for the middle school soccer teams, and a baseball field. A softball diamond and another lacrosse and soccer field will also be added at the west end of the property, closer to Cook Road.
Parking for approximately 200 cars is also included, as well as new fencing.
A major issue the plans addressed is drainage, which has been a continual problem for both Liggett athletics and neighboring homes that surround the property.
According to a landscape architect with the project, each of the fields, whether synthetic or natural, will have a custom-designed drainage system, which will allow the fields to be ready for play within 15 minutes of a three-inch rain. He said the current problem with drainage is due to the fact that most of the soil is clay, but a new drainage system will correct the problem.
The landscape architect also indicated that the school hopes to save as many of the existing trees as possible, but those trees that cannot be saved will be cut and milled, with the wood being used in the construction of the new gymnasium.
ULS officials are planning a meeting with residents living near the athletic field for Thursday, April 3 at the school.
Woods building official Gene Tutag told the commission the school does not require a variance for the project, but the project will need to be approved by the city council.
The project is being managed by ThreeSixty Architecture, based in Kansas City, Mo. The firm specializes in sports, athletics and recreation facilities, and is currently overseeing construction of the new facility for the Atlanta Falcons football team
One item, conspicuous by its absence from the project, is lighting for the athletic fields. There will be no lights, and no night time events are planned.
"At night, we want our students home studying," explained a Liggett official.