Columbiana School District Gets Creative in Funding Stadium Improvements

COLUMBIANA, Ohio — Donald Mook stands on the gravel path surrounding the football field in Harvey S. Firestone Park and looks at the worn seating area.

The superintendent of Columbiana Exempted Village Schools knows the school’s athletic fields need renovations and is pondering the correct approach. Redoing the home side stands should be a high priority, he says. Plans call for replacing them with new metal stands that are similar to those already in place on the visitors side.

The $700,000 project would begin after the football season ends in the fall, or possibly in the spring. Under consideration is a plan to move the existing home side bleachers to the baseball and softball fields in the park, Mook says.

How many phases will there be to this renovation project?

“Phase one really is the home stands. That’s the most dire need,” he says. “Secondary stages will be dependent on funding. The [stadium improvement] committee will decide an order of importance on what we think we need to get done.”

Columbiana City Manager Lance Willard sits on the stadium improvement committee, which has met three times since Jan. 1 to discuss the proposed work.

Columbiana Village Schools superintendent Donald Mook

The school system assumed ownership of the park’s football, baseball and softball field in 2020, a move that “allows more flexibility for the schools to go out and get grants and raise funding,” Willard says.

There is a caveat on the property from the original deed from the mid-1930s that prohibits advertising billboards. Businesses cannot put their name on any part of the three athletic facilities.

Coca-Cola approached the city years ago to donate a scoreboard for the football stadium, Willard says, but the company’s logo on it would have broken the agreement with the Firestone family and the district had to find another way to fund it.

“There are still covenants that were from the original Harvey S. Firestone agreement from 1934,” Willard says. “The city and [the school system] still need to work together to make sure we meet those covenants.”

Mook adds the project will receive a $500,000 donation, but he cannot disclose the benefactor until that process is completed. The stadium will be named after the party that is providing the donation, Willard says, which does not violate the Firestone agreement.

Money for the project will also be raised through fundraising, donations and government grants, he adds, and not from levies paid by taxpayers.

The football stadium at Firestone Park.

“We’re going to take a look at some of the facilities here that we can name that will give us an opportunity to go out and fundraise some of those high-ticket dollar amounts that are necessary to complete any part of this project,” he says.

None of those facility names can be from businesses and advertising cannot be displayed in any of the three fields, which limits how the school can raise funds.

“[They’re] high tasks for sure,” Mook says.

Those who want to donate to the renovation project can contact the Columbiana Athletic Boosters through Facebook or email.

Another phase of the project would include installing a covered band shelter in the stadium so the band does not have to sit in the bleachers during games. It would cost between $100,000 and $250,000, Mook says.

Paving of the gravel track surrounding the football field is also planned, which Mock estimates would be $25,000 to $50,000.

The football field will remain a grass surface, Mock says.  According to Kiefer U.S.A., a new artificial turf field costs at least $700,000.

“Grass surfaces are a great way to go,” Mook says.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.