WOOLWICH TWP. – A referendum will be put before residents in Swedesboro, Woolwich, East Greenwich and South Harrison Townships through a special election to be held on March 8 to fund a $12 million athletic complex improvement plan.
The improvements, approved by the Kingsway Board of Education, include a new eight-lane track to replace the existing track which was condemned by the NJSIAA in fall 2014. Student athletes who participate in track have not been permitted to use their home field in two seasons.
The project also includes the addition of two synthetic turf fields, making various improvements to the stadium, dedicates a practice area for marching band, expands stadium seating capacity, and constructs a new transportation maintenance center, among other projects.
The referendum is being split into two different questions. Question #1 asks voter to approve improvements to the area for track and field events, the track replacement, two synthetic turf fields, lighting, a bus maintenance building, parking, expansion of the press box and visitor side bleachers in the stadium, and ticket booth.
Question #2 asks voter approval for the track and field house with a dedicated marching band storage, and expansion of the current athletic field house.
One or both questions can be approved. Approval will mean tax increases.
For the average assessed home in East Greenwich of $269,454, approval of Question #1 would mean an increase of $60.32 a year; Question #2 an increase of $11.99. And if both are approved, an increase of $72.31 per year.
For the average assessed home in South Harrison Township of $322,058, approval of Question #1 would mean an increase of $83.51 a year; Question #2 would be an increase of $16.59. If both are approved, an increase of $100.10.
For the average assessed home in Swedesboro of $171,527, approval of Question #1 would mean an increase of $47.94 a year; Question #2, an increase of $9.52. If both are approved, an increase of $57.46.
For the average assessed home in Woolwich Township of $287,361 approval of Question #1 would mean an increase of $72.77; Question #2, an increase of $14.45. If both are approved, an increase of $87.22.
Homeowners can visit Kingsway’s website at http://www.krsd.org/Page/1114 to calculate their exact tax impact.
“At present, we are a Group 4 school with Group 2 resources and it isn’t fair to our student athletes, when we complete against similar size schools such as Shawnee, Cherokee, Williamstown, and Washington Township, all of whom have excellent facilities,” said Kingsway Superintendent Dr. James J. Lavender.
Kingsway offers 26 high school sports teams with complimenting junior varsity and freshmen levels teams as well as nine middle school sport offerings, one of the most in the state of New Jersey. According to Lavender, approximately 40 percent of the student population is involved in athletics at Kingsway.
Lavender was not available for comment when asked how many of these student athletes would compete in the track and field and football programs that would directly benefit from the improved facilities.
According to school officials, the athletic complex improvement plan includes the conversion of the football field to a multi-sport synthetic surface as well as the addition of a second multi-sport synthetic field with lights; an expansion of visiting side stands, press box and field house; the replacement of the existing six-lane track with a new eight-lane polyurethane track, and improvement for all field events for discus, shotput, high and long jumps, and more.
According to Lavender, other schools with artificial turf fields include Eastern Regional, Shawnee, Cherokee, Seneca, Lenape, Washington Twp., Camden Catholic, Paul VI, Haddonfield, Camden City, Gateway Regional, Rancocas Valley, Egg Harbor Township, and Bishop Eustace.
The referendum also includes the addition of a new transportation bus maintenance garage and additional parking as well as a new track and field house.
When asked how they decided on what improvements to make, Lavender responded, “We knew the track had to be replaced, as it was condemned by NJSIAA. Secondly, we are in desperate need of a new bus maintenance garage. These two issues drove the discussion.
“By addressing the garage, we have to take an athletic field, resulting in field shortage. The idea of a multi-sport synthetic surface was a solution. The remaining items are a result of researching similar size schools, consulting our coaches, and working with our professionals to determine cost and impact,” Lavender continued.
“As a Group 4 School (Group 5 in football and wrestling), our student athletes are competing at a high level and this project not only resolves a number of critical issues but literally evens the playing field for them.”
With the approval, Lavender stated that Kingsway’s youth programs will have greater access to the campus. In the past, fields were reserved for varsity programs in an effort to preserve quality field conditions.
“We see this is a tremendous benefit to our youth programs and an opportunity to continue to improve Kingsway’s athletic program by helping to create strong feeder programs,” said June Cioffi, Kingsway’s Athletic Director.
You can learn more about what the referendum includes by viewing the presentation at http://www.krsd.org/Page/1114. You can also watch several short videos, Lynch Talks Track, Referendum Benefits, and Coaches Talk Turf.