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Gainesville parks department to consider trading fields with school board
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Gainesville Parks & Recreation wants to swap properties with the Gainesville School Board.

The school board wants Ivey-Watson field — the Gainesville High School baseball team plays home games there — on Lee Waldrip Drive off Dawsonville Highway, and the city wants the Gainesville Middle School multipurpose field across from the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center off Jesse Jewell Parkway. 

Parks & Recreation Deputy Director Michael Graham said the move aligns with long-term plans for intergovernmental agreements between the city and school board. A new draft of a five-year intergovernmental agreement is being reviewed by both parties.

The proposal was made at Thursday’s Gainesville City Council work session.

Officials are still working out kinks related to part of Ivey-Watson being on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers leased property, Parks & Recreation Director Melvin Cooper said.

“We’re short on athletic venues, both diamonds and rectangular fields,” Cooper said, in explaining the rationale behind the proposed swap. “In this case, this is kind of a win-win because the Parks & Recreation board can come in and take the multiuse field, which currently doesn’t have lights, spectator seating, restrooms, concession stands — any of those type of things — and we can make those additions to that field, which makes it more usable, obviously, during the nights for football season, soccer season and also on the weekends.”

Cooper said the change wouldn’t interfere with how the schools have used the multipurpose field.

“It works out where the school system can still use it during the school day,” Cooper said. “They can use it for their athletics, for practice times, all the way up until 5:30, and then Parks & Recreation can come in and use it 5:30 until 8:30 at night, and then the weekends and summer months as well.

Councilman Curtis Segars asked if maintenance costs had been considered.

“If that field you’re talking about is really going to be used, maintenance would be a problem, I would assume,” he posed.

Cooper responded that such costs have been weighed and factored so that neither side has to pay the other.

“We’ve taken that into account, to look at what it would require to maintain the field,” he said. “And the maintenance would transfer over to us, but it’s part of that intergovernmental agreement and looking at the partnership and the facility uses ... It’s been taken into account.”

Graham said proposed renovations would run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Right now the lights themselves would cost somewhere around $150,000 to $170,000,” Graham said. “We’re estimating to go into there and do all the renovations we’d like, the cost would approach upwards of half a million.”