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Skinner Field: should it be improved?

OUT OF THE RUNNING—The rubberized track at Skinner Field, once state of the art, is showing some age. The question is, who has the money to repair it?

By Judy Reed


When SSGT Charles Towns comes home to Cedar Springs from Georgia, he runs on the track at Skinner Field—and wonders what will become of it. He was recently upset to hear that the school was seeking a sinking fund millage for school repairs, and there was no mention of repairs for the track at Skinner Field. “I just want to know what their plan for Skinner is,” he said in an email to the Post.

On Friday, July 6, 1948, the Village of Cedar Springs paid tribute to Bert Skinner, a leading citizen and businessman. Part of the tribute was the dedication of Cedar Springs Public School’s lighted athletic field, on the west side of Morley Park. In 1991, a gift was given to the school district, to construct a running track at the field. An agreement signed by both the school and city made it available for both school athletic events and the community to run on. It was created partly on school property and partly on city property, with the school district responsible for maintenance for a period of 99 years, or until they relocated the field and running track.

PEELING PAINT—The school district only has the budget to do basic maintenance at Skinner Field.

That happened in the mid-2000s, when Red Hawk Stadium was approved by the voters as part of a bond issue. Most school athletic events are now held at Red Hawk Stadium, although the middle school still uses the track at Skinner, as do members of the general public.  Red Hawk stadium is not open for the public to run on. Other groups also use Skinner Field, such as Rocket football and semi pro teams.

In 2007, the school transferred the last parcel they owned at Skinner Field to the city of Cedar Springs, but the school has continued to do maintenance on the field, such as mowing, trimming, picking up trash, maintaining the turf, watering, and paying the water bill. According to Asst. Superintendent David Cairy, they spend about $10,000 to $15,000 per year on Skinner Field.

Neither the city nor the school system, both with shrinking revenues, currently has money budgeted for repairs at Skinner Field. Under the terms of the contract, the school could remove the improvements if the cost to repair exceeded the cost of removal. The visiting side bleachers were removed due to safety issues several years ago.

“As a voter I would go with a compromise that would allow them to save up for several years. I do not want to sink the school district, but if their plan for Skinner is not to even be concerned, and just let it fall apart, while they maintain Red Hawk Stadium, I find that unacceptable. The whole community uses that track, and they promised to maintain it,” said Towns.

Cairy said that repair of a track is allowable under a sinking fund millage, but they need to look at what their most urgent needs are. He noted that repair of the track could cost as high as $20,000.

Emails by Towns to both the school and the city has gotten the two entities to begin discussing what the future of Skinner Field might be. “In the past 10 years we’ve worked pretty closely together, and share many of the same goals,” said Cairy.

The two groups plan to meet in the near future to discuss the issue.

Do you use the track at Skinner Field? Email us and let us know what you think of the issue at news@cedarspringspost.com.


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19 Responses to “Skinner Field: should it be improved?”

  1. Charlie Towns says:

    Thanks for running the story. You did get more information out of the School District than they would give to me. But… I would like to say I make these comments not as SSG Towns, but as Charlie Towns concerned neighbor, citizen, and taxpayer (Nelson TWP and City of CS). How did you come to the conclusion as the states that the track was “relocated” “maintenance for a period of 99 years, or until they relocated the field and running track……That happened in the mid-2000s, when Red Hawk Stadium was approved by the voters…..”? While I am not a lawyer when I read the agreement I understand it to mean that the school must remove the improvements for them to relocate it. They built another stadium, I do not think they “relocated” it. It would not surprise me if the school told you that, I feel they are trying to worm their way out of a commitment. What makes you say they relocated the Track?

  2. Charlie Towns says:

    The solution is right in front of the School… If both parties are willing to compromise (The City and the School)! This can be done with current funds we do not even need the sinking fund to do it. According to figures that Mr. Cairy stated the School spends $10,000 to $15,000 per year in upkeep. That is mowing and watering the lawn basically. Repairs to the Facility would be according to the same person are on the high end 20K. Go to the City, explain that you want to close the Facility for a year and a half. That means that the school can save $22,750 (existing budget) The money will be put in an escrow account exclusively for renovation of Skinner. The City has already shown they are sympathetic to the school by letting the facility go without saying anything. The only problems would be it would not look nice for the time it was shuttered, and the Community would not have a track. The upside outweighs this because after the down time we would have a track for another 20 years!!

  3. Administrator says:

    Hi Charlie,
    The guide they have is one that tells what they can and cannot use the sinking fund for. It is not a guide listing their priorities. If you contact Dave Cairy, I’m sure he can tell you where they got it or where to find one.

  4. Administrator says:

    Oh, I see what you are saying. I guess it depends on the interpretation. The contract stated that it was good for 99 years or until they relocated the field and running track. While they didn’t pull it out, they did “relocate” their track and field to Red Hawk Stadium, and left Skinner open to the public.
    I”ll look at the contract again when I get back to work Monday.

  5. Charlie Towns says:

    I am assuming that the school did not meet the threshold of “relocating” the track by this statement made later in the article

    “Under the terms of the contract, the school could remove the improvements if the cost to repair exceeded the cost of removal.”

    The above statement sounds like it may have come from the school(I am thinking)? If they “relocated” then it would not affect them either way what the repair bill would be because they no longer have any obligation to maintain Skinner at all. In speaking to the city Manager last year, she stated the School ask to be relieved of the contract, and the city told them no. I never saw anything in writing from the City releasing them from their obligation. I too will review the contract, I know they signed property over but I never saw anything letting them off the hook. If that were the case why would they have even went to the City to ask to be released?

  6. Charlie Towns says:

    I have read it again, and it States they (the School) must remove the improvements they have made at the site if they “relocate” Skinner Field and the Track. I would think they have not met the threshold.

  7. Sam says:

    When I was growing up in Cedar Springs I played all of my Rocket Football games at Skinner Field. It holds a lot of history, not just for me but for the community as well. Now I coach for the 7th and 8th grade program there on Wednesday nights. It’s a great field that holds a lot of Pride for the town. I hope that this story gets the City and School to do the right thing and make those necessary repairs to keep Skinner Field thriving so that others can gain that history that so many of us have there.

  8. Administrator says:

    Hi Charlie, I went back and re-read it, and it says that “the agreement shall be 99 years…unless sooner terminated by the relocation of Skinner field and running track…and upon termination of the agreement, the school will be responsible, at its cost, to remove improvements…unless the city determines such improvements need not be removed.” I’m no lawyer either, but that sounds like it suggests that “relocation” of the field and track means that they could begin to use a new track and field and leave the improvements (track, etc) at Skinner Field as long as the city agreed.

  9. Charlie Towns says:

    I would submit to you that this has not happened yet. Case and point the School is saying that they could use Sinking funds to fix it. To the best of my understanding they can only fix facilities that belong to the school with those funds. If they are saying that it is the Cities, then they would have told you it was a problem for the City.

  10. Charlie Towns says:

    You said it Sam. Skinner field is 20 times the investment than Red Hawk Stadium could ever be. The needs of BOTH the Community AND the School district can be met in one facility. The idea that the facility could not have been expanded at that sight with more bleachers, more parking, and that Red Hawk Stadium HAD to be built is a lie. Look no further than the open vacant field to the south of the site just waiting to have had pavement put on it for additional parking!! If synthetic turf would have saved so much money they should have put it down at Skinner!

  11. Fred Myers says:

    I found this story to be very interesting reading. People took the time to dig in a little and get accurate details. There are more details that need to be looked at. There are legal issues as well as others, like what it best for all. Keeping this short, I will be looking to The Post to keep us up to date on what happens. They may find many community members willing to give a little help to keep Skinner Field in good shape.

  12. Charlie Towns says:

    Mr. Myers, and Sam,
    Please write the City Council and the School district and tell them how you feel about Skinner Field. Please tell them that an investment in Skinner is twofold, they invest in the community (that they are asking for more money from), and the School kids at the same time. Un-like Red Hawk Stadium they do not have to choose the Kids only, everyone wins with every dollar put in the Skinner Field Facility. Nothing says that the school cannot still hold High School track meets there after it is fixed up (or any other event).

  13. Charlie Towns says:

    Tell the School that with this new sinking fund they have (I am assuming it will pass) as a voter you expect you expect Skinner to be treated with the same level of importance as Red Hawk Stadium. If they maintain Red Hawk Stadium they should at the VERY LEAST have a plan to fix Skinner and stick to it. I wrote both the Council and the District. The Council was very responsive; the School never did answer my questions as to where Skinner was on their priority list compared to Red Hawk Stadium. Tell them that while we understand that the roads and things directly effecting education must be fixed first, we will not condone them getting new turf for Red Hawk Stadium without a solid plan in place to fix the track at skinner field!!

  14. Charlie Towns says:

    Eventually the District wrote me off, and stopped responding to my questions. They can do that with one person (only me), but if more of us write them and let them know how we feel they will be forced to deal with the issue. Does anyone else out there get frustrated with the school, too maintain Red Hawk Stadium they would go to hell and back; think of new creative ways to become more efficient to free up dollars ANYTHING. But when it comes to Skinner that people on limited incomes or anyone in the community can use, they just shrug their shoulders and say “well if a pot of money falls from the sky we can fix it then.” Then they have the gull to turn around and ask that very community they snubbed for more money. How come the creative think well (they always tell us about how they are now doing more with less) goes dry when it comes to something that benefits the Community and the School? Tell them Skinner is just as important as Red Hawk Stadium!

  15. Trisha Dart says:

    I was against Red Hawk Stadium being built and I was a student at the time. Skinner field holds many memories from football games to band competitions. I would love to see Skinner Field maintained. I always felt and still do that Red Hawk Stadium was a waste of money. That money should have been used to remodel Skinner Field. I don’t want Skinner Field to end up like the tennis courts at Hilltop and is it Red Hawk Elementary (old high school). I don’t want it to become dilapitated. Admin can we get the address for the city council so we can write them?

  16. Administrator says:

    I took the contact info from their website at cityofcedarsprings.org:
    The City of Cedar Springs
    PO Box 310
    66 S. Main Street
    Cedar Springs, MI 49319-0310

    Phone: 616-696-1330
    Fax: 616-696-0202

  17. Charlie Towns says:

    Please write the school board as well. They are actually in a better potion than the City to do anything about the field. Below are the e-mails of the School board and senior administrators.
    joseph marckini , Ron McDermed Tim Avery , “svanderhyde@hotmail.com” , “matt@ia-studio.com” , “jeffgust@sbcglobal.net” , Brook Nichols , Todd Hanson , David Cairy

  18. Charlie Towns says:

    Looks like the emails did not post. IF they do not do it in this post go to the schools website and get their e-mails. kimmyandtim@hotmail.com “svanderhyde@hotmail.com” “matt@ia-studio.com” “jeffgust@sbcglobal.net” “brook.nichols@yahoo.com” “todd.hanson2010@yahoo.com” “David.Cairy@csredhawks.org”

  19. Charlie Towns says:

    oh and
    “marckinihome@yahoo.com” “Ron.McDermed@csredhawks.org”




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