New stadium planned to open for 2020 school year

BERRIEN SPRINGS — The Berrien Springs school district campus will be a busy one for the next year or so with work on three major projects getting underway.

Berrien Springs school board members received an update on both the new Sylvester Stadium and the new performing arts and indoor athletic centers at their meeting Thursday.

Bids are expected to be awarded on the new $8 million Sylvester Stadium in April. Architect Tony Leininger said construction should start soon after that and be done by Aug. 1, 2020. The new stadium will replace the current football field with a complex set to be home not only to football, but also soccer and track and field.

Leininger said 12 acres are being developed at end of the district campus nearest to M-139. The complex will feature an entrance area with a flagpole and signage, a 126-space parking lot, a team building underneath the home stands, a digital scoreboard, a football field covered by artificial turf and an eight-lane track.

Other features of the project include a roundabout at the end of Sylvester Avenue leading up to the stadium as well as 4-foot high fencing around the track and 6-foot high fencing around the perimeter. There are also plans to have pillars topped with pennants along the edge of the stadium next to M-139.

The money for the Sylvester Stadium project is coming from the district’s general fund. In contrast, the funding for the new performing arts and indoor athletic centers is coming from the $19.73 million bond issue voters approved last November.

Leininger and Carl Baxmeyer of Wightman also spoke about the progress on the bond issue projects. Four visioning sessions were held with selected community members and staff over the last six weeks and resulted in a consensus on what the two centers should look like and what they should contain.

The two centers will be interconnected and built off of the high school. Board members will be asked to approve the concept plan for the two centers at their April meeting at which time work will start on developing the schematic designs.

Baxmeyer said eight weeks will be spent on the schematic designs followed by 13 weeks spent on design development. The schematic designs will be developed with help from several focus groups including those who will be using the space including teachers, coaches, students, parents and board members.

The design development will be followed by 18 weeks to develop the construction documents and seven weeks to develop the bid documents. Construction would start in April 2020 and be done by the end of 2021.

“We are on target to be ready at the end of the year to be ready with the documents and to go out for bids after the first of the year,” he said.

Leininger said visioning session participants were able to hash out ideas and hone what they want to see in the two new facilities. People agreed they wanted the performing arts center to have flexible space and the right acoustics and the indoor athletic center to have dedicated spaces for different sports as well as community wellness.

As currently envisioned, the indoor athletic center will be built closest to the high school and have a height of 37 feet, while the performing arts center will be behind it and have a height of 51 feet. The high school itself is 11 feet, 6ix inches tall.

“We’ve built the skeleton of the structure,” Superintendent Dave Eichberg said. “The focus groups will develop all the details such as the floors, the walls and the materials. They will be putting the skin on the skeleton.”