Bibb wants to transfer stadium expense

Bibb County wants out of the stadium business.

For years the county has owned Henderson Stadium and the Bibb County Sports Complex, leasing the facilities to the school board for athletic events at a cost of $1 per year.

But many commissioners say they’re tired of paying thousands of dollars each year for facilities they don’t use and see no profit from.

With the current leases set to expire June 30 — typically they are renewed each year — commissioners want to terminate the contracts and start fresh with the hope of getting a better deal for the county. They voted Tuesday to notify the school board of its intent to terminate the leases.

“This starts the dialogue of getting help with operating costs,” Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart said.

During renegotiation, the county may try to come to some agreement in which it sells Henderson Stadium to the school board for a nominal fee, said Steve Layson, Bibb’s chief administrative officer. The Sports Complex can’t be sold because the county still owes debt on the stadium, officials said.

Bibb schools Superintendent Sharon Patterson said transferring operating expenses to the school board would put a greater strain on the system’s already declining budget. Bibb schools have lost $27 million in state funding since 2003, she said.

“That’s money that won’t be used to educate children. It will be used to operate a stadium,” Patterson said.

The current leases call for the school board to deposit a sum of money into an enterprise fund for each stadium. Patterson said Tuesday she is uncertain of the exact amount, but she said it may be up to $30,000 a year. Other revenue the stadium earns is put into that fund, and the balance at the end of the year goes toward operating expenses, the leases state.

Expenses, which include maintenance, grass cutting, field striping and utilities, that exceed the amount in the fund then are charged to the county, according to the leases.

Between Henderson and the Sports Complex, Bibb County paid $173,000 last year for stadium upkeep, Bibb Finance Director Deborah Martin told commissioners during last month’s retreat. The county also is required to maintain liability insurance on the stadiums, according to the leases.

Layson said county officials have met with Patterson about the commission’s intent to terminate the leases.

“We own the facilities, and they want to use the facilities,” Commissioner Elmo Richardson said.