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Decatur City Commission approves agreement with school board for track, field at Legacy Park

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Decatur City Commission approves agreement with school board for track, field at Legacy Park

The Decatur City Commission met with the City Schools of Decatur School Board for a joint work session on Aug. 1 at the Wilson Center. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — Legacy Park will be getting a track and field.

The Decatur City Commission, at its Aug. 1 meeting, approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Decatur School Board and the Decatur Public Facilities Authority to develop a track and field at Legacy Park, which is a recommendation in the Legacy Park Master Plan.

According to the Legacy Park Master Plan, a competition level track and field was one of the most requested facilities during the master planning process. The concept in the master plan has the track and field located to the east of the historic core and near the next to the conservation easement of the park.

“Furthermore, the demand for outdoor, recreation space was heightened during the pandemic, and demand for such facilities within the city remains high,” City Manager Andrea Arnold wrote in a memo. “There currently are not enough athletic fields to meet the demands for recreational and competitive activities, and there is no running track available in the city for community or school use. The city and school system recognize this unique opportunity to partner to bring this desired facility to the community.”

The city will commit up to $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding, and the school board will contribute up to $3 million in ESPLOST funds.

“Clearly this is a project that I believe we can’t do alone, nor should we do this alone, so I think this is a tremendous opportunity for a partnership between the city and the school system where we have a mutual need, and we’re able to come together and achieve this great project,” Arnold said during a joint work session with the city commission and school board on Aug. 1.

Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers said he’s glad the city received ARPA funding because without that funding, the city would still be in a holding pattern with the project.

“I remember vividly saying, ‘I don’t know if a track will ever happen in my time on the city commission,’ and here we are. We’re about to achieve two things, hopefully, in the short term – affordable housing and a track at Legacy Park. I want to commend both organizations to see this to this point,” Powers said. “As an alumni and a parent of a coach at the high school now, I am grateful that we can move this bus forward.”

Some highlights of the agreement include that the project would be joint ownership between the school board and the city, there would be a ground lease with Decatur’s Public Facilities Authority, and routine maintenance of the track and field facilities would be provided by City Schools of Decatur.

Arnold recommended that the city commission approve the intergovernmental agreement as well as allow for the execution of the agreement within the next few weeks, and to execute the ground lease at a later date. It is anticipated that the school board will consider the agreement at its Aug. 9 meeting, and the PFA will consider the agreement during a special called meeting on Aug. 15.

Commissioner Kelly Walsh, with a square foot of track material on hand, shared some backstory on the track and field project during the work session.

“This project will symbolize the best of everything our two organizations have to offer, namely, delivering high-quality services and facilities, building community, enhancing economic development and infusing equity into our city with a shared public space that’s accessible to all and literally built to benefit all,” Walsh said.

The project has been about a decade in the making, she added. Before serving on the city commission, Walsh was a member of the Active Living board and joined that board in 2012.

In her five years on the Active Living board, the experience cemented her belief that “we find tremendous community and resilience through physical activity, interaction with nature and communing together over sport as we recreate, compete and support each other in being healthy and active,” Walsh said.

Throughout her tenure on the board, they often came back to the topic of a track and field and determined it was a missing piece in the city’s facility portfolio.

Walsh, along with resident Michael Harbin, gathered a group of people to discuss the shared hopes and dreams of some day building a track and field facility in the city.

“We saw a need to add field space for Active Living and school activities, including soccer, lacrosse, band, ultimate Frisbee and more,” Walsh said. “I learned from coaches and the athletic staff in the school system that we could create up to 50 more spots for middle and high school athletes to join a team and compete if we had a track and field.”

While the committee did their work, Harbin would bring a square foot of polyurethane track material to each meeting to ground the group in their efforts and remind the members that the dream could become a reality. The committee was eventually named the Legacy Park Athletic and Recreation Coalition.

“The mission statement was that the LPARC would through partnerships…develop a versatile and high-quality competition grade track and multipurpose field for use in the pursuit of health, wellness and recreation,” Walsh said. “The track and multipurpose field together would complement and enhance the athletic and recreation programs offered by the city of Decatur, as well as City Schools of Decatur. The track and multipurpose infield will be designed and constructed so as to benefit the most users while also offering a level of practice and competition for local athletes that’s currently unavailable to them.”

Once the city, the school board and the Public Facilities Authority agree with the terms of the intergovernmental agreement, they can put together a team of people representing the city and CSD to move forward with issuing an RFP for the design and construction of the track and field.

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