August 16, 2013

How much would you pay to keep flecks of ceiling out of your nacho cheese at home football games this year?

$5 million?

That amount would have bought a new stadium last year with bleachers without holes and a foundation without cracks and bathrooms that aren't gross.

Oh, and a concession stand with a ceiling that doesn't sprinkle itself on your game-time food.

Carroll Community school leaders expect to repaint the concession ceilings in the next two weeks as the town's two high school football teams prepare to square off in the annual crosstown rivalry game Aug. 30, one of the most highly attended events at the Carroll Athletic Field, where the Carroll Tigers and Kuemper Knights play their home games.

The concession repair costs will be far less than $5 million, but school officials and booster club members agree that spending thousands of dollars for stopgap fixes is a little like polishing the brass on the Titanic.

"If it was just the bathrooms, the concession stands, the locker room or the fencing that needed to be fixed, we could do that," said Chad Jensen, the new Tiger Booster Club president. "But really, what part of the stadium is good?"

It's been no secret that the 50-plus-year-old stadium is in disrepair. A committee that evaluated the condition of the stadium two years ago found all of the above-mentioned problems plus unusable locker rooms and showers, inadequate storage, a track that is years past its expiration date and others.

But a September 2011 proposal to increase property taxes to pay for the project was soundly defeated at the polls, with "no" votes from about two-thirds of the 2,500 voters.

The issues with the stadium resurfaced this month as the Tiger Booster Club prepares to take over the operation of the school district's concession stands. They were warned by school officials to be wary of ceiling flakes and to keep food covered at the stadium.

"This isn't anything new by any stretch of the imagination," superintendent Rob Cordes said. "It's been an issue for quite some time."

A school district employee who for years oversaw the concessions and sought volunteers to help had decided to relinquish that responsibility, and the booster club agreed to take it over, Cordes said.

"It was getting more difficult all the time to find people to help," he said. "It would probably take a good 12 to 16 people at a football event."

The concession sales earned the district more than $30,000 each year, Cordes estimated.

Jensen said the booster club has plans to upgrade the concession equipment and expand the menu. They'll buy a bigger popcorn popper and want to serve nachos without a side dish of ceiling.

And the proceeds will benefit student athletes. In the recent past, the booster club has bought Apple iPads for the basketball teams to keep stats, travel suits for volleyball players and touchpads that signal when a swimmer has finished a swimming-meet race.

Cordes said the district is in the process of gathering estimates to fix the stadium's concession stand ceiling.