KINGSPORT – Imagine a park in the Indian Highlands with eight tennis courts and lacrosse fields added to the athletic mix and other uses already present.
The overall plan could touch on athletics, academics and expanding spaces to benefit both at Dobyns-Bennett High School.
These are some of the ideas and concepts that Deputy Superintendent of Administration Andy True and Director of Student Services and former Deputy Director of DB Jim Nash presented to the mayor’s and aldermen’s council at the a recent working session.
The current park includes soccer fields, soccer field, softball fields, batting cages, concessions, washrooms, public seats / tables, open space and observation tower, as well as a parking lot on the northeast side of the park.
“We have to have an open mind about what these things might be,” Nash said.
“We’re so landlocked on our current 35-acre Dobyns-Bennett campus,” he said.
In Tuesday’s business meeting, True said that one idea, if the school system bought all or most of the properties east of Park Street, would be to relocate the six tennis courts to the campus side. DB from Center Street to the park and add two more. for a total of eight.
True said that for tennis tournaments, eight is an optimal number of courts, and Education Council vice president Julie Byers said the current courts are overdue for resurfacing.
Byers asked if all the rest of the houses and land in question had been purchased if there would be enough room for eight tennis courts.
True said he wasn’t an engineer, but a first glance indicated that would make enough room.
“There is an opportunity to do something big there,” True said. And in partnership with the City of Kingsport, True said, indoor tennis facilities are another option.
Another idea is to add a lacrosse field and storage / changing rooms to Indian Highland. The Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association (TSSAA) added lacrosse to the list of sanctioned sports this year, said Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse.
In addition, True said vocational technical education, including construction technology, horticulture and greenhouse DB and STREAM (science, technology, reading, engineering, arts and math) could expand to the area. that tennis courts currently occupy.
Additionally, he said the color guard and performing arts programs could use some of that space.
Nash said the indoor and outdoor expansions allowed by the proposals could include additional parking, better concessions and more locker rooms for all sports.
BOE member Eric Hyche said the board should keep in mind the need for more parking for existing activities in the park, let alone for additional activities.
True has sometimes said that soccer, track and field, tennis, softball and group practice runs concurrently in the Stadium Court and Indian Highland Park area, with the Highland parking lot serving the DB side and vice versa.
WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD?
Nash and True said the way forward would include continued purchases of Park Street properties on the east side of the street by the school system and a partnership with the city, as well as working with stakeholder groups including the Safe School System and Parents Working Group.
Moorhouse said the city is ready to help facilitate the demolition of structures on the land purchased.
BOE member Todd Golden asked if a “walkway” or elevated walkway crossing Center Street would be authorized or supported by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. It would be similar to the one serving Science Hill High School in Johnson City. This walkway crosses Roan Street.
A similar elevated walkway has already been discussed to connect the DB campus to the Palmer Early Childhood Development Center and the Midland Center on the west side of Fort Henry Drive.
“We talked about it,” said interim board member Tim Dean, who served on the school board in the 1980s and occupied the seat vacated by the death of Carrie Upshaw until the May municipal election. “I’m sure it hasn’t been discussed for a long time.”
Dean also said it’s important for the school board to be prepared to seize opportunities to purchase land when they arise.
“If you’re not ready to act, the opportunity quickly slips away,” Dean said.
ONE PARK STREET PROPERTY FOR SALE NOW
True and Nash said the Indian Highlands expansion began in earnest in 2003 with seven property purchases to date on the east side of Park Street, with additional plots purchased in 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2013 and two in 2016. At the time of Indian Highland Park’s last update in 2019, True said, three properties facing the east side of Park Street were on the market.
On Tuesday, True said he only knew of one of the 12 non-school system plots that were for sale. A house and land closest to Center Street with a sign for sale in the yard is awaiting sale, True said.
A former church the school system bought on Park Street was used as office space for years, then became a warehouse for six years until it was recently demolished.
Board chairman Jim Welch said it raises the issue of the school system doing something with the property it bought instead of letting it sit there “and disintegrate the neighborhood”.
IS A LOOKING BACK A GOOD LOOK FOR THE FUTURE?True and Nash said a forward-looking vision for the future of Indian Highland Park includes looking back at how Dobyns-Bennett High School has developed over time in the residential Stadium Court area.
They showed council an image of Stadium Court that looked like it might have been from the 1960s to the 1980s, showing greenery, trees and houses, but then told council that this photograph was from 1999. During the 21 years since, the stadium The court area was completely purchased by the school system and included a surface training ground for the DB group, a parking lot for the students and an expanded music building.