Following an open community conversation focused on the future of Marshall Field and Memorial Stadium in June of 2018, the Monroe School District Board of Directors applied to have the property rezoned through the City of Monroe. While no formal decisions have been made at this point, the rezone request is now being considered by the City of Monroe's Planning Commission. This has sparked many questions from community members, which are addressed below.
Q: Why did the Monroe School District apply for a rezone of Marshall Field and Memorial Stadium?
A: Monroe School District applied for a rezone of the three adjoining parcels of land that make up Marshall Field (baseball field) and Memorial Stadium (football field and track) in the interest of maximizing district resources. These properties are no longer used by Monroe School District and are costly to maintain. Our community graciously approved a capital projects bond that included adding new synthetic ball fields at Monroe High School, Park Place Middle School and Hidden River Middle School and therefore, there is no longer a need for our student athletes to use Marshall Field & Memorial Stadium. In addition, Memorial Stadium has not been adequately maintained in recent years and has deteriorated over time, making it hazardous and no longer suitable for use. Because of the condition of the field, Monroe School District has not approved any community group to use the field at Memorial Stadium in over a year. It is not fiscally responsible for the district to use taxpayer dollars to maintain properties that are not used for district activities. The property has sat as a severely underutilized district resource for many years.
The School Board is currently looking at maximizing all unused district resources. If the district were to sell the property, rezoning it first would increase the market value of the property; however, the district has the authority to sell the property without it being rezoned. If the School Board decides to sell the property, the dollars will be used for future district facility growth and change. There will be an opportunity for public comment on the potential rezone at a future City of Monroe Planning Commission meeting.
Q: What opportunities has Monroe School District provided for public comment on the potential rezone?
A: The Monroe School District Board of Directors hosted a community conversation specific to the possible rezone of Marshall Field/Memorial Stadium over a year ago, on July 16, 2018 and sent individual invitations to the residents whose properties surround Marshall & Memorial Field. All community members were also welcome to attend this conversation.
In addition, public comment can be made at any School Board meeting. School Board meetings are held twice a month all year long. During the 2018-19 school year the School Board also hosted three informal community conversations in the evenings. The Superintendent also hosts 'Superintendent Coffee Chats' once a month with morning and evening options.
There will also be a public comment opportunity as the Planning Commission finalizes their recommendation to the City of Monroe and then another when the Monroe City Council considers the matter.
Q: Why wouldn't the district hold onto the property to build another school in our growing community in the future?
A: The three parcels of land are only large enough to build an elementary school. Secondary schools require larger pieces of property. Frank Wagner Elementary is across the street from Memorial Stadium/Marshall Field, and it is unlikely Monroe School District would build another elementary school in such close proximity to an existing one. In addition, the district already owns property off of Old Owen Road that is being retained as a possible future elementary school site.
Q: Wasn't the property donated to the Monroe School District and designated as a memorial in honor of veterans who lost their lives in war?
A: The 4.85 acre plot of land that later became Memorial Field was purchased by the Monroe School District in 1929 for $3,000 from Arthur John Hibbit, a local landowner. The property sat directly across the street from the former Union High School (later named Monroe High School) and became the school's athletic fields. Many years later, the field was named Memorial Field by the school district and a dedication ceremony was held on September 21, 1946 in honor of Monroe veterans who gave their lives for their country in World War II. You can read more information about this through the Monroe's Historical Society's archives, found here and here.
In collaboration with the Arthur Kincaid American Legion Post in 1951, a bronze memorial plaque was placed near the entrance to the field, which was originally intended to include all of the names of the Monroe Veterans who lost their lives in World War II. However, for reasons unknown, the names of the veterans were never inscribed in the monument as originally intended. More details can be found here, here and here.
Years later, new schools were built in other locations with new athletic fields and Memorial Field was used less and less by Monroe School District students. The monument, in an obscure location behind a locked fence, suffered vandalism and the harsh elements of weather.
In 2015, the City of Monroe, American Legion Arthur Kincaid Post No. 58, Monroe School District, the Monroe Historical Society, and Park Place Middle School students worked together to evaluate all veterans memorials in town and discovered most had not been cared for and were in obscure locations. The group decided to combine the memorials and move them to a more prominent location in town. The original bronze plaque from Memorial Field was removed and incorporated into the new, well cared for memorial that is now located at Lake Tye Park in 2016. Park Place Middle School students are credited with conducting the research that uncovered the names of the 20 Monroe World War II Veterans whose names are now finally inscribed in the memorial. Read more about this project here and here.
Q: Will the Monroe School District be building multi-family or low income housing if a rezone is approved?
A: No. If the rezone is approved and the School Board decides to put the property up for sale, what is done with the land would be up to whomever purchases the property. There are not currently any agreements or discussions between the school district and any potential buyers.
Q: Why not build a Monroe Aquatic Center (MAC) on the land?
A: An aquatic center would be a very costly undertaking for the district to build and maintain and owning and operating a community swimming pool is a huge liability. We are an educational entity with the primary goal of educating our community's youth. Owning and operating a community recreational facility does not align with this primary goal. For the district to build an aquatic center, the Capital Projects Committee would need to prioritize that as a need and include it on a future Bond that would go to the voters for approval.
If the district puts the property up for sale, another community organization or private entity would have the opportunity to purchase it and what is done with the land would be up to the new owner.