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Blankenship renovations delayed until after football season

(Oak Ridge press release) The City of Oak Ridge announced today a decision to wait until the Oak Ridge High School football season is complete to begin renovations on Blankenship Field. The decision was based on the contractor’s estimate that the project could not be completed without impacting the first three home football games.

City Manager Mark Watson explained the rationale behind the decision. “Rescheduling three home football games would have significant impacts on the Oak Ridge Schools, the football team, students, band members, cheerleaders, parents and other fans. While disappointing, the parties agreed that postponing construction until after the football season ends is the best approach under the circumstances in order to give the construction team the necessary time to complete the renovations.”

Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch added, “On behalf of the City, I want to thank the Blankenship Field Revitalization Foundation, all of the citizens, businesses, and boosters who have donated to the project, and a special thanks to Deputy Governor Jim Henry, Lt. Governor Randy McNally, and Mayor Pro Tem Rick Chinn for their leadership. Regrettably, the grant approval process took much longer than anyone anticipated, but that is finally completed. We are going to have a state-of-the- art football field and a gathering place that the entire city will be proud of.”

David Bradshaw, Treasurer of the Blankenship Revitalization Foundation, added, “Foundation members met with the City and the School three times in last two weeks to determine if project construction could start now or would interfere with the football season. Final conversations with the contractor indicated that project could be completed by September 10, requiring differing location options to be considered for three home games. This was not acceptable to the group and the decision was made to delay construction until the end of the season.”

Oak Ridge Board of Education Chairman Keys Fillauer acknowledged, “The BOE is disappointed that this project could not be completed for this season, but understands the necessity for the delay to make sure that a quality project is completed. The project will be completed for the 2019 Graduation and the 2019 football season.”

According to Oak Ridge Schools Superintendent Bruce Borchers, “This project involves coordination among City and School work crews and equipment, as well as the contractor. With an already tight timeframe that could be impacted by the weather, I am confident that the decision to postpone is prudent given all of the community resources at stake.”

About the Grant: The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has approved a $496,000 Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant award to the City of Oak Ridge for the purpose of renovating Blankenship Field. The grant will receive an equal match from the Blankenship Field Revitalization Foundation.

The funds, totaling roughly $1 million, will be used to make a number of upgrades to the facility, including, but not limited to: installation of synthetic turf, concrete walkways, synthetic track, new fencing, signage for the Cedar Hill Greenway trail head, and additional restrooms. All work is expected to be completed by April 30, 2019.

The TDEC grant includes a stipulation that the entire facility be open for public use during non-event times. As per that requirement, Blankenship Field and its amenities will be operated like a City park, meaning it will be open to the public from dawn until dusk every day. The only exception would be during scheduled sporting events or other scheduled community activities that may take place inside the facility throughout the year. The City has coordinated with the Oak Ridge Board of Education to create a joint operational agreement for management and maintenance of the stadium facilities moving forward.

TDEC has overseen the community’s plans and gave approval to issue a notice to proceed on July 9, 2018. The City has split the project with the replacement of the field turf first. The contractor Field Turf has been selected as the provider through a national bidding consortium.

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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