Payments for Bluffton High baseball stadium completed

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comOctober 18, 2013 

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

STAFF PHOTO

Ten years and $305,000 later, the Bluffton High School baseball stadium is entirely paid off.

The Bluffton Community Stadium Fund, set up by former Mayor Hank Johnston to pay for the larger-than-planned stadium, made its final $30,500 payment April 15 to the Beaufort County School District.

There was never a doubt whether the debt would be paid on time, said Carolyn Torgersen, vice president for marketing and communications at the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, which administered the fund.

She said the fund met its annual $30,500 goal every year with contributions raised from a handful of individuals.

The stadium, which bears Johnston's name, was built at the same time as the high school in 2003. It was originally designed to accommodate 250 spectators, but Johnston envisioned a venue to host community events.

He persuaded the district to spend an additional $305,000 on the stadium to increase its capacity, add a grandstand and build larger concession stands and restrooms. The stadium now has a 1,400-seat capacity, athletics director Dave Adams said.

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

The original plan was for payments of $61,000 over five years, Johnston said. But in 2008, he asked the district to revise the schedule to allow for half that amount to be paid annually until 2013.

Torgersen said that Johnston paid just shy of $165,000 in total, a little more than half of what was owed through the fund.

Some money was also raised through fundraisers held by the school's baseball team, but Adams said he doesn't know how much they contributed to the total.

Since the stadium has been built, it has been used to host many fundraisers and functions for outside groups -- part of its envisioned purpose, Adams said. School groups also frequently use the space for concerts, he said.

Adams said the stadium is used about three or four times a year for events other than baseball games.

"It was and has been a great contribution to our school and our community," he said. "Your high school is part of your community, and you want it to be that way, so this helps to not serve only our school but every one here in the area."

Johnston, who occasionally attends games at the school, said the stadium was a good idea for the school district.

Adams said the school, students and athletes enjoy the facility, and it brings a new meaning to home-field advantage.

"It's almost like a one-of-a-kind in the state," he said. "There is no other place like it."

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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