180313_HAWK03

Milton School Board member Tom Westrick,bottom right, speaks to a large crowd before the vote on the district’s proposed purchase of the former Varsity Lanes bowling alley on March 12. The district has rented the former bowling alley for the past year to use as a practice location primarily used by Milton’s baseball and softball teams. Voters rejected a plan to buy the site, and the school district will continue renting the facility through April.

Anthony Wahl

MILTON

Milton’s spring sports teams can use the Hawk Zone through the end of April, even though the school district’s lease agreement expired March 31.

Doing so will require the district to pay the building’s owner, Backyard Properties, a rental rate of $50 per hour, District Administrator Tim Schigur said this week.

It was Backyard Properties’ idea to offer the facility, located at 450 S. John Paul Road, because the company has not yet finalized its sale. And it has been an unseasonably sloppy and cold spring, making it a beneficial partnership, Schigur said.

How often the district uses the building will depend on weather. Schigur estimated it could be used for 60 to 80 hours this month, which would bring the total cost somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000.

Milton has used the former Varsity Lanes bowling alley as an extra athletics space for the past year. The school board initially approved a use agreement through the end of 2017, then extended that again through the end of March.

Under those terms, the district paid only for utilities and the per-month rate of the building’s annual property taxes. That equated to about $1,000 per month, Communications Supervisor Jerry Schuetz said.

Those were formal agreements that required board approval. However, the money used for April rentals will come out of the regular athletic department budget, meaning the district did not need the board’s permission, Schigur said.

Milton regularly uses rental agreements for its athletic teams. The golf team rents a local golf course, and the hockey team rents a rink in Stoughton, Schigur said.

Baseball, softball and girls soccer are three sports that could benefit from the additional time in the Hawk Zone, he said.

Last month, the district considered buying the facility so its teams could use it long term. Because that would have acquired new property, Milton was required by state law to get district residents’ permission to complete the sale.

Voters rejected that purchase March 12 by a vote of 402-304. It would have cost $485,000, plus another $15,000 for electrical upgrades.

Less than a week before the special vote, the school board considered canceling it after learning the facility was worth considerably less than originally thought. A preliminary 2018 city assessment showed the building was worth only $398,000, not $498,000.

The board ultimately decided to hold the vote, even though the sale price was locked in.

The district plans to be out of the facility by the end of April. Schigur isn’t sure if the Hawk Zone would still be available into May because he doesn’t know what Backyard Properties’ plans are.

The Gazette was unable to reach Backyard Properties for comment.

While the cost for April usage could be five times greater than per-month costs under the previous agreements, Schigur considered it money well spent.

“What we’re doing is we’ve weighed the pros and cons of kids having opportunities,” he said. “It’s in our athletic budget. Financially, it’s worth it, but it’s worth it to give the kids an opportunity to practice during the less-than-ideal weather conditions.”

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