Despite delays, the construction projects south of UAHS continue to make progress.
BY MATTHEW DORON, ’23. GRAPHICS BY MOLLY HENCH, ’22.
Once the previous high school building was demolished and the grounds excavated, the UA School District and Ruscilli Construction began the next step of the district’s “Building Our Future” campaign: building two parking lots, two multi-use athletic fields, a baseball field, a softball field and an outdoor area south of the high school called the Pleasant Litchford Plaza.
According to the district’s website, once these construction projects are finished, “the new high school site and first phase of the community-developed master plan will be completed.”
For many, these projects present exciting new opportunities.
“We’re super excited and really thrilled for the new field. It’s going to have a turf infield which is going to add tremendous value to our program,” varsity baseball head coach Sam Clark said. “Being an Ohio school, we [will have] the opportunity to play and not get rained out, which in the springtime, there’s just so many rainouts of games, but more importantly, [of] practice time. So if we don’t have rain-outs as frequently because we have that turf infield, we’ll be able to practice more often… we’ll be able to get outside even if it is raining.”
Clark said the original completion date for the baseball field was March 1, but weather conditions and waiting to receive the turf materials delayed construction.
SLOWLY BUT SURELY
District Chief Operating Officer Chris Potts said that while the construction projects were making progress in December, issues in January and February halted them.
“I think any time you try to get stuff done during those months, you just don’t know what’s going to happen… The weather has [been awful], whether it’s been frozen ground or torrential rains,” he said. “There’s been really no work happening out there.”
In addition to weather, the construction projects have faced other roadblocks.
“[In January] we also had an issue; we [were] dealing with a gas line that was coming into the building where… it wasn’t at the right elevation, and so Columbia Gas had to come back out and [re-install] it back in for this building,” Potts said. “We recognized that [the gas] line wasn’t low enough. And so that’s why we didn’t want any work happening out there until that gas line got put back in at the proper elevation.”
With the parking lots specifically, Potts said, the availability of materials is another obstacle.
“We’re waiting for [the parking lots] to dry a little, but asphalt plants don’t open until [the] end of March anyways,” Potts said. “So that’s why there’s been this big pause because we can’t do anything. We’ll need [to] have concrete curbing and sidewalks and things that need to happen.”
Despite these delays, construction on the new parking lots is scheduled to be completed prior to summer break.
“And there’s a lot of work [to be done], so as the weather gets better, you’ll see a lot of work happening but definitely nothing with parking until end of April [or] beginning of May,” Potts said. “We have some things we have to get done with sidewalks and [making] it accessible for people besides a big muddy mess that it is right now, but that’s what we’re shooting for.”
Potts said he expects all construction to be completed by the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year.
A PLACE OF REFLECTION
One of the most prominent of the construction projects is the Pleasant Litchford Plaza, an outdoor plaza and green space located on the grounds of the Pleasant Litchford Cemetery.
“Over the last several years and working with the [Litchford] family, doing all the excavations and things that we did on that site, [the cemetery] is really considered sacred ground and the right thing to do [is] to not pave back over and make a parking lot over that area,” Potts said. “Our Board [of Education] in March of 2021 committed funds to really construct an outdoor learning plaza area to honor that cemetery site and honor the history of Upper Arlington… then the City [of Upper Arlington] came on board and wanted to be a part of it as well to honor the family, and so they are contributing funds as well to construct this.”
Potts said that the plaza will be for both learning and reflection as well as for community use.
“Students, staff, community members can reflect in that spot, hang out in that area,” he said. “It’s going to be a combination of concrete and picnic tables and grass and some signage that will tell the story [of Pleasant Litchford]. And so we’re working right now on that signage with the City and with the [Litchford] family.”
Potts also said that the location of the plaza directly on the former cemetery grounds is an important aspect of honoring the Litchford legacy.
“[The plaza is] located in that south parking lot so it does impact 85 parking spots, but we just felt honoring our history and our past and telling the story of that sacred ground was important as well.”
“A HOME BASE”
According to Potts, the varsity baseball and softball teams have not been able to host a home game since 2018. Clark said this loss of a home field impacted the varsity baseball team’s culture.
“I think the biggest thing that not having our own space is there’s no room for the guys to hang out and build that relationship and that culture piece which we’re so big on as a program,” he said. “I think having a home base, no pun intended, gives our guys something to kind of take pride in, their spot to hang out. Building those relationships [between players] and that big piece of building our culture together by them being around each other all the time.”
Potts emphasized that progress still needs to be made before all of the projects are complete.
“Of course the landscape and all those types of things will take time to mature and grow in, so it won’t look as pretty as the renderings when we start, but it will be,” he said. “I just think like everyone else, we’re excited to get parking done for the students and the staff.”