Springboro football field, track to get $830,000 makeover

The artificial turf on the football field and track at what will soon be known as CareFlight Field at Watkins Stadium in Springboro will be replaced this summer for $831,180, according to a contract approved Thursday by the Springboro school board.

Springboro-based Watkins Heating & Cooling is to contribute $450,000 in exchange for joint naming rights, effective June 1, with Miami Valley Hospital (MVH), as well as other marketing and promotional opportunities for 10 years.

“If the MVH agreement expires on May 15, 2022, ‘CareFlight Field’ signage will be removed by the School District,” the the naming-rights agreement approved Thursday by the school board.

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“The stadium shall be simply referred to as ‘Watkins Stadium’ after that date until May 31, 2028,” according to the pending contract.

Watkins, based about a mile north of the stadium on Main Street in Springboro, hopes to one day shorten that to Watkins Stadium.

“That’s the hope,” Watkins said before the board approved the naming deal and other contracts enabling the turf replacement to commence.

The district also plans to replace fencing, putting the total project cost at $878,000.

Other sources of funds were tapped and people contributed to replace the football field and track surface, worn out so much that no home meets had been held for two years, according to Board President Dave Stuckey.

“Our field turf, we might have been able to get one more year out of it,” John Pennell, the district’s executive director of operations, added during the board meeting.

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The district will spend $426,000 set aside by the district in track and field funds. Local boosters also agreed to kick in $80,000 over four years.

This summer, the Motz Group, based in Cincinnati, will manage the project, to be completed by the end of July - just in time for summer football practices.

On Thursday, board members, staff and Superintendent Dan Schroer credited Watkins, MVH, Treasurer Terrah Floyd, Athletic Director Austin Rhoads, as well as Bob Westerfield, owner of Side Effects, a Franklin company that puts together deals funding coring tables in high schools.

Although collecting no commission on the project, Schroer said, “Side Effects and Bob Westerfield helped make that happen too.”

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Watkins is to pay $22,500 every six months over 10 years to finance debt taken on to expedite the project.

The naming-rights are in addition to an 11-year-old agreement with MVH - through which the stadium was named after its helicopter ambulance service - and the district and hospital embarked on a $10 million-plus collaboration in 2007 expected to continue through 2029.

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Watkins has sponsored school sports programs in Lakota East, Mason and Centerville, as well as Springboro, where it is based since 2002, according to Watkins.

“This is a whole different level of crazy,” he said. “It’s just a creative way to raise money so they don’t have to raise taxes.”

In 2007, the district and Dayton-based MVH signed agreements financing a three-story, $9 million “Healthplex” to be shared by the district and hospital.

The football field featured artificial turf purchased with about $2 million the hospital pledged for stadium improvements in exchange for naming rights. The agreement also covered seating expansions and a press box.

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While the district carries the loan, the hospital was to make payments ranging from $720,000 to $1.1 million.

In addition to Springboro, Miami Valley reached naming rights and sport medicine agreements at the time with schools in Beavercreek, Mason and Franklin.

Only Springboro and Miami Valley also collaborated on a building. The Springboro project never succeeded as a medical office.

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The hospital didn’t rule out extending its naming-rights deal with the Springboro schools.

MVH indicated the current naming-rights agreement runs through 2022 “with an option to extend into the future.”

“Miami Valley Hospital has had a great relationship with Springboro Schools and will work closely with school administration on any plans for renewal at the appropriate time,” according to a statement issued last week, one of several issued by both the school district and hospital.

Although plans were for hospital doctors and staff to work in the upper floor of the building, “Miami Valley Hospital does not have any physicians occupying the Educare building at this time, but the third floor is completely outfitted for a medical office.”

Hospital officials said they were also contacted about funding the track improvement.

“Miami Valley Hospital supported Springboro Schools’ desire to extend the stadium naming rights to Watkins. The ‘CareFlight Field’ name remains proudly positioned in the location it has been since 2007 and that will not change,” according to the statement issued by the hospital and school district.

The only tenant of the parts of the building set aside for hospital doctors and staff was the Springboro Community Assistance Center (SCAC) Food Pantry.

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“We have had physicians practicing out of the EduCare building in the past and because the area is not easy to access for some patients, the practices were moved to other Premier Health facilities,” according to the district’s statement.

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