I am writing to set the record straight about the renaming of our stadium to Spartan Stadium and its connection to the proposed Stadium Park project.
Let me be frank — there is no direct connection other than the owner of the park property holding up the project because he doesn’t like the name Spartan.
The Lima City School Board was happy to give needed parcels of land we owned to the project. We did so believing the rest of the land was already in place. The board worked with the city and signed a memorandum of understanding, which was approved by the board and Lima City Council. Nowhere in any contract or state grant application did it say the stadium name had to be Lima Stadium. The state money is still available. Renaming the stadium doesn’t impact the state funding.
Friday’s story in The Lima News indicated that board President Dennis Williams questioned Mayor David Berger on why the school district should compromise. What the story failed to include was that I met with Leo Hawk, who owns the land. Hawk said six members of his family would have to vote to release the land and he believed they would not accept anything other than Lima Stadium.
The possibility of a compromise was discussed, but it has become apparent that it is not an option. It is unfair to act as if the Lima City Schools is the reason the project could fall apart. The reason the project may not come to fruition is because the money behind it apparently can’t live with the name Spartan Stadium.
I also want to be clear; the change does not impact the agreement we have with Lima Central Catholic High School. They are welcome to continue to use the stadium at the current generous terms. We can’t wait for people to see the new stadium and we are thrilled to be able to provide such a facility for many in the community to share. We hope everyone in our community comes out to celebrate the stadium from 2 to 4 p.m. Aug. 24
While the support from our students is overwhelming, some have questioned our commitment to Spartan pride and our belief that the new Spartan Stadium will keep the momentum going. Some say Spartan pride is not a legitimate reason for renaming the stadium. I whole heartily disagree.
The Lima City Schools has been forced to operate as a business. The era of vouchers and recruitment has forced us to fight to keep students and to get our students back. Our local representative in Columbus, Rep. Matt Huffman, has made sure of this.
One way we can keep our kids is by getting them excited about school and excited about being Spartans. Without a doubt a renewed pride in our school, pride in our athletic teams and in the new Spartan Stadium does that. Students want to be a part of something big, and Spartan Nation is growing every day.
But Spartan pride is about more than the stadium, more than pep rallies and winning athletic contests. It is about creating climate. Those are just avenues to get students excited about school, to make them care what others think of their school, and to make them want to be here. If we can accomplish that we have made huge strides in the real goal of developing relationships and getting students to graduation and bright futures.
We appreciate all those who attended and spoke at our board meeting Thursday. We are always open and want to listen to our public. While we heard from naysayers, we also heard support from students, parents, alumni, staff and community members.
I am proud of our school board. They have always kept our students at the center. Our board may be facing some criticism in the community, but they have the full support of their first priority, our students. They can sleep well tonight knowing that.
Jill Ackerman is the superintendent of Lima City Schools