Plans advance for nearly $6M overhaul of Crispus Attucks athletic facilities

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Plans for Crispus Attucks High School's athletic facility include reorienting the foortball field from north-south to east-west. (Image courtesy of Google Maps)

Indianapolis Public Schools is moving ahead with a $5.8 million plan to renovate and reconfigure the outdoor athletic facilities at Crispus Attucks High School in downtown Indianapolis.

The project, which was first authorized in early 2022, is expected to begin next year. It partially entails rotating the school’s multi-use field and running track from their current north-south orientation to east-west.

The renovation on the campus at 1140 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. will also create more seating, with home grandstands accommodating up to 2,000 spectators, and a new visitor seating area with 500 seats. Additionally, the project will result in a larger press box from which coaches, media and event personnel can operate during activities on the field, such as track meets, football and soccer games.

The new athletic field is expected to include a synthetic-turf playing surface funded in part by a $250,000 grant awarded earlier this year by the Indianapolis Colts, the NFL Foundation and the Local Initiatives Support Corp.

The city’s regional center hearing examiner is expected to consider the changes to the property in the coming months, after months of delays caused by a lack of consensus on what should be done with a Verizon Wireless cell tower on the site.

The tower is located within the existing bleacher infrastructure. IPS this summer reached an agreement with Verizon and Boston-based American Tower, which leases, operates and manages the cell phone tower, to move the tower to another part of the property.

The agreement, approved by the school board Sept. 28, allows for the tower to be moved to the southwestern corner of the Attucks campus, near a turn in the new athletic track. The relocation is expected to cost about $763,000, with American Tower and IPS each paying half—about $381,500.

“We are thrilled with the outcome,” Marc Ransford, a spokesperson for IPS, said in a statement to IBJ. “This agreement was supported and signed off on by … Verizon, who has been an effective partner in the process of moving this forward.”

A representative of American Tower said the company “has long been committed to supporting educational initiatives in the communities where we operate.”

“We are taking steps to support the redevelopment of Crispus Attucks High School and to ensure connectivity within the community, by relocating the tower site that is currently located on the school’s campus,” according to a statement from the company. “This includes working closely with the school district authorities to relocate the tower site to a nearby, mutually agreeable location within the framework of our existing contract, and we are fully committed to implementing this proposal as soon as possible.”

The cell tower must be relocated by the end of February, or IPS will be required to pay $5,000 per day in damages to American Tower. Ransford said plans are in the works to move the structure, including the installation of a temporary tower to manage the bandwidth while the current tower is offline.

As part of that process, IPS was also required to file a special exception petition with the city of Indianapolis to allow for the relocation of the tower. The requirement means the remainder of the proposed athletic field project must wait to be heard by the regional center hearing examiner until after a hearing on the exception occurs.

While no date has been set for that hearing, IPS requested that its regional center request be continued from Nov. 16 to Dec. 14. If approved, work on the athletic field is expected to be completed by fall 2024.

Crispus Attucks opened in 1927 as the only high school in the city for Black students. It remained effectively segregated until the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The school was shifted for use as a junior high in 1986 amid declining enrollment, before becoming a middle school in 1993. In 2006, the school was reimagined as a medical magnet high school by IPS as part of a larger focus on degree-driven educational outcomes for students.

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