ARAB, Ala. -- In the upcoming weeks, Arab City Schools leaders expect construction to start on new athletic facilities as part of a plan that eventually includes a new high school.
Arab City Schools owns property next to Gilliam Springs Baptist Church, off of U.S. Highway 231, a short distance from where the current high school is now. That stretch will be home to a new sports complex and eventually, a new high school.
Superintendent John Mullins said for years, the city leased some athletic facilities to the school system for $35,000 a year. "We appreciate the City of Arab doing that, but at the same time, there are monetary advantages for us owning our own facilities."
Last year Arab voters said 'yes' to additional property taxes, generating more than seven million dollars. That will help build the new complex.
The system approved plans for a new stadium and track in addition to several other facilities."Tennis courts, a baseball field, and a softball field," Mullins said.
Right now, there isn't a place to hold track meets. The current stadium is smaller, dated, and needs ADA compliance upgrades.
Mullins explained that the new complex will give students more opportunities outside of class. "Consuming their time with something productive in a group environment is an important part of the maturation process," he added.
The complex will also allow the system to host events like track meets, bringing in revenue to the city.
The goal is to have the stadium ready by Fall 2018. The other facilities will follow suit. "It's a big project for us and we're excited, and again, we're very appreciative for the people in our community who supported this," Mullins said.
Work is expected to begin on the facilities in the next few weeks.
The complex is the short-term part of a bigger plan that looks ahead to the future. "The long-range plan of the school district is that eventually, 15 years from now approximately, there will be a new high school located on school property that is in the northern part of Arab, adjacent to Gilliam Springs Church," Mullins explained.
The idea is to build the complex first, and the school in the upcoming years at the same location. "We know that 15 years from now there will be a need for a new facility," Mullins added. "Also, 15 years from now there could be a need for a fifth school in the school district."
As the area surrounding Arab continues to expand, the city will too. "We feel blessed to be close to Huntsville," Mullins said, "Huntsville is one of the most dynamic economic cities in America growing. As Huntsville grows, Arab continues to grow slowly."
For now, school officials expect work to start on the new sports complex on the property. "With the property tax referendum, our approach is to build the athletic facilities, pay them off in 15 years, and then 15 years from now the school district will be in a very good position to build a new high school," Mullins explained.
Mullins says that approach will reduce the overall cost of the school when they are ready to build.