Questions continue as cost, scope of Welcome Stadium project has shifted



Original $10 million vision is now over $40 million; some will come from fundraising; school board members asked for explanation

Dayton Public Schools says they may spend up to $44 million on a broader Welcome Stadium project, as inflation has hit, and additional features have been added since staff predicted four years ago the district would spend about $10 million to renovate the stadium.

District officials say they knew before work started in 2022 that the stadium project would cost up to $40 million and budgeted accordingly, citing an estimate done in May 2022. Groundbreaking on the stadium project happened in June 2022, after the district signed initial contracts in February 2022, authorizing up to $11 million.

A 2019 strategic planning document from DPS lists the cost to redo the stadium at $10 million.



“The original estimate for Welcome Stadium was $28.9 million,” a district spokeswoman said in an email. “Due to changes in plans for the fieldhouse and an increase in the cost of construction materials, the total increased to $36.7 million. As planning continued and material costs continued to increase the new projected amount is around $41-$44 million.”

The Dayton Daily News asked DPS’ superintendent, treasurer and business manager several questions about the project since last week, but did not receive specific answers. Monday evening, district superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said the original estimate was $36.6 million and the cost had increased due to high costs of construction materials, variations in design and other costs.

The Welcome Stadium budget changes appeared to frustrate some school board members, who have asked at multiple board meetings for the district to explain how much they are spending on the stadium to the public.

“Is there a way to present this plan to the community, in essence because we said one thing at the beginning of this project, and now we’re still increasing understanding on what needs to be done,” board member Dion Sampson said at the Feb. 21 meeting. “But to some in the community, it’s now approved to $27 million when we thought it was going to be just $12 million, and we have to fundraise and things of that nature.”

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At a board meeting on Jan. 17, Gabriela Pickett, another board member, said she remembered the initial cost as $13 million. The district’s superintendent, Elizabeth Lolli, told her the initial estimate was closer to $30 million.

At a school board meeting in February 2022, the Dayton school board approved an $11 million contract with Shook Construction to design the Welcome Stadium remodeling project and start looking for subcontractors to do the work.

The district plans to use a combination of funding sources to pay for the project and says about $17.5 million would need to come from fundraising to complete a fieldhouse and a second athletic field. So far, the district’s board of education has authorized $27 million for the stadium.

A district spokeswoman said $9.2 million is coming from federal COVID-19 dollars, which must be spent by September 2024; an Ohio Department of Education settlement from a past state funding lawsuit is paying for $11 million, and $6 million is coming from a budget transfer out of the general fund that occurred on Feb. 21.



The district also used their federal COVID-19 money to hire 100 more teachers in first through third grade, who are still teaching this year. The plan improved DPS’ very low math and reading scores last school year to pre-pandemic levels, according to district data, at a time when most Ohio school districts were still significantly behind pre-pandemic achievement. DPS also continues to struggle with busing efforts, as some families say the district is not regularly getting their children to school on time.

Last Tuesday, the board of education voted 5-2 to terminate its agreement with the district’s construction management company for the Welcome Stadium project, Skanska. The district said the contract was terminated because a school employee is going to be overseeing the project.

“Skanska appreciates the opportunity to work with Dayton Public Schools on this important project and understands the district’s desire to now manage the project with internal resources as part of their recent restructuring efforts,” said Peggy Cook, communications manager for Skanska U.S.A. “In its role as owner’s rep, Skanska has been able to move the project forward, and we now wish the district the best as it takes over management of this project.”



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