A sketch of the proposed softball complex that was handed out by University of Minnesota Morris officials.

The Morris School Board debated at their regular meeting on Tuesday the merits of becoming a partner in a proposed softball complex, which would involve redoing the softball fields on the University of Minnesota Morris campus. The proposed upgrades would bring them up to league standards for high school and college athletics. There would also be additions of bathrooms, a press box and improved bleacher areas for spectators.

But Board Member Kurt Wulf raised concerns about the potential costs for the project.

“Is this the best use of our funds?” asked Wulf. “We did gain 40 students last year and added a teacher and if that trend continues or not, will we be looking to add more teachers as those kids move up through the system? Class size is important to us, always has been. How do we pay for that? Do we have the funds to do everything?”

Board Member Doug Stahman responded that there is enough money for the project. Community Education Director Tony Reimers added his view that it would be a nice location for their programs in the summer, since it’s closely connected by a walking path. Board Member Jennifer Goodnough, who is on the Big Cat Stadium Committee, said the history and data of the school’s other partnership projects, such as with Big Cat or the track, shows the school is getting more than its fair share from the arrangements.

“In some cases, I think we’ve come out further ahead than UMM has in sharing space with that,” Goodnough argued. “So, one thing I look at is, we have a history of partnering for facilities and my observation has been they are working out well for us.”

Goodnough said the district would end up with something far better than what it could come up with on its own. Board Member Mike Odello offered that the complex would give the girls teams facilities that would be the equal of the boys teams. Board Member Matt Johnson, who is also Athletic Director at the U of M Morris, saw the project as a good investment.

“From where I sit, it’s about doing the right thing and this is an opportunity for us to really invest in our students here at the high school,” said Johnson.

In the end, the Board approved a motion to be a partner in the first three phases of the project. Besides the University, the City of Morris is expected to sign on as the third partner. The school district’s cost for their involvement could run up to $254,000, but community fundraising is expected to lower that number.

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