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Saturday, November 20, 2010

MHS Puts New Gym Plans on Facebook

The Madison Central School District is finally taking my advice and adopting interactive Web tools to market its message. The district has put up a Facebook page on the "Facility Project."

Obviously Darin Namken is keeping his vow not to get involved with any new push for a new gym: if he were involved, he'd have gotten his Bulldog Media employees to storm up a fancier name than "Facility Project." Building a Bulldog Future!... Jump for the Gym!

The site includes the bullet list of costs you see in the image at right (click to enlarge!). $2.9 million for the gym, $2.5 million for fine arts. We see there in plain numbers the traditional misprioritization of putting athletics over the arts. We appear to be spending more on a new gym we don't need than on any other item in the project. Boy, we could make those other improvements a lot better if we just skipped the gym and diverted those funds to a nicer theater, better science equipment, a dedicated debate room (we used to have one, until the mid 1990s, when computers took over)....

My neighbor Charlie Johnson does some quick math: $16.9 million for 360 high school students... that's just under $47,000 per student. Make of that figure what you will.

The architect drawings do show the new classrooms the project will bring. Boy, all those new rooms would make it even easier to host a big event like a debate tournament. Hmm....

...Meanwhile, West Central is spending $4 million on a new 2100-seat gym. As my esteemed MHS literature teacher and classicist Martin Connor said, you can tell a society's greatest priorities by looking for its largest buildings. Our grand temples to athletics affirm the jockocracy.


  1. Their plan is to convert the gym for a new chorus room adjacent to the auditorium and built a second story there for storage. The whole change allows for better science classrooms, a new auto shop, compliance for the handicapped, etc. This is improved infrastructure for the community that will probably draw students here from the smaller schools, and those students that do better in those smaller schools will still have that opportunity. Take the tour. It makes sense and it's quite creative. Positive change.

  2. "You can tell a society's greatest priorities by looking for its largest buildings. Our grand temples to athletics affirm the jockocracy." Poppycock!

    Historically, Madison schools have never built anything more than a mediocre physical education gym, investing the majority of dollars in true education and arts. The three grade schools (Washington, Lincoln and Garfield) all had tiny gymns. The downtown Armory was used for competition for decades, the high school gym is surrounded by classrooms and an auditorium. The middle-school gym, who's main function is PE classes, now serves as our primary competition center. We've never build anything more than adequate.

    While there is considerable expense to the remodel project, I see it as a rebirth of our 46-year old High School, and an opportunity to produce smarter, more worldly students.

    If you want to see large athletic buildings, visit West Central, Lennox, Sioux Falls Christian, O'Gorman and others. Madison Central has never put athletic facilities first in its priorities for buildings, and with only 20% of the remodel project dedicated to a replacement gym, education is still the number one priority.

  3. Michael Black11/20/2010 10:58 AM

    Take the tour people and then decide.

    Cory will support the plan if there is no money spent for a new gym, but I suspect that there are many more others that won't support a remodel unless a gym replacement is part of the remodel.

    I worry more about what will happen when the legislature convenes and decides which cuts will make up for the projected 80 million dollar shortfall in revenue. Education funding is a HUGE amount of the budget. The higher ed system suffered spending cuts the last time. State salaries have been frozen. Those people are not going to want make sacrifices every year. I hope that K-12 can come out OK in the next budget cycle. You can be sure that there will be gnashing of teeth as state lawmakers make the kind tough choices about spending that our leaders in Congress refuse to make and run up debt instead.

  4. Michael Black11/20/2010 11:24 AM

    You bring up the figure that $47,000 will be spent for each of the 360 students. Let's assume that the building will last 30 or 40 more years. Then cost drops dramatically per student over time.

    I don't want to see the Madison Central School District torn apart like its neighbor to the northeast. The addition/remodel of the Oldham-Ramona School is being decided in the courts. Even with their building project, their taxes would've remained lower than area districts. Their need for improvements will not go away next year if their building project is delayed.

    At some point down the road, the state fire marshal will say "Enough!" and buildings that don't comply with safety and access standards will be forced to make immediate improvements or close.

  5. Can someone tell me if theatre renovations are included in this project?

  6. Facility project? Competition center? Why does no one say the word "gym?"

    Those of you who are posting that this is a great idea, please post here how much it will cost you in taxes for the total cost of $31 million (counting interest which you must do unless you want to stop paying the bill when taxpayers have coughed up the $18M initial cost).

    We took the tour and were shown the problem areas. Fix those. Forget the domino theory which basically guts the building and makes way for the GYM. Also, why do you need extra room on the front for office space. Just rearrange the present office space and there would be easy visibility of anyone coming into the building.

    I do have to give the powers that be credit though this time. They are pulling out all the stops - tours to every group they can find in Madison, a friendly newspaper with remodel friendly front page articles, recycling political signs, even Facebook now. It doesn't change the price tag nor the fact that this will not bring economic development to town.

  7. Nonnie, I'm a landlord almost entirely dependent on rental income so the increase in taxes will directly offset my income. I'm not pleased about that (understatement), but sometimes we have to pay for a better community on worthwhile projects.

  8. Got my answer on the Facebook page:

    "Over $1 million will be spent in the auditorium: gutted from top to bottom with new seats, new sound and lighting system, new stage floor, handicapped-accessible stage from the audience, dressing rooms with bathrooms on stage, storage."

  9. That's a definite improvement. We had one makeup room in the stage-left wing... and it was never big enough for a big Doc Miller cast. The gym behind the stage became a makeup and staging area... not to mention sight of many a mad dash from stage left to stage right!


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