Payments for Bluffton High baseball stadium staying on schedule

April 14, 2010 

Bluffton High School's baseball field in 2004 as it was nearing completion.

FILE, THE ISLAND PACKET

The Bluffton Community Stadium Fund, set up by former Mayor Hank Johnston to pay for a larger-than-planned baseball stadium for Bluffton High School, still owes $91,500 about seven years after the facility's construction.

The group made a $30,500 payment to the Beaufort County School District on Wednesday, meeting its annual goal on time, according to the group that administers the fund.

Johnston said he is confident the debt will be paid off on time, by 2013.

The stadium that bears his name, built at the same time as the high school, originally was designed to accommodate 250 spectators. Johnston envisioned a venue to host community events -- perhaps a minor-league or college summer-league baseball team -- and convinced the district to spend an additional $305,000 to increase capacity to 1,000 seats, put about 400 of them under a grandstand and build larger concession stands and restrooms.

Johnston agreed to pay back the $305,000 to the district -- personally, if necessary -- with annual, interest-free payments of $61,000 from the Community Stadium Fund over five years.

In 2008, the school district revised the repayment schedule to allow for half that amount to be paid annually until 2013.

Johnston said he personally paid back more than 50 percent of the amount owed this past year, though he would not disclose exactly how much. He said other donors contributed and money was raised through fundraisers held by the school's baseball team.

A fundraiser featuring live music was held Sunday at the stadium with proceeds going toward the debt.

Johnston said he does not work directly with anyone at the high school or the school district to raise money. The school hosts fundraisers to support the stadium fund on its own terms, he said.

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