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Dianne Jenkins: Edgewood needs money from stadium

December 23, 2018

The State Journal editorial board stepped into the Edgewood High School stadium debate Wednesday, framing the issue as “Let the kids play under the lights.” But the editorial missed the broader story.

Yes, it is about the kids. But it is also about the money, particularly Edgewood High School’s need for new revenue streams, and it’s about protecting the livability of a city neighborhood.

According to a UW-Madison Applied Population Laboratory report, the number of Wisconsin high school graduates has plateaued, which is bad news for private schools that compete for students. In 2009, the number of Wisconsin high school graduates peaked at about 70,140, declined 7.6 percent to 64,803 in 2016, and will not increase until 2026, to 67,000.

The impact on private school enrollment of this population decline and plateau is obvious at Edgewood High School. In the 2014 Campus Master Plan, Edgewood High School reported 593 students in 2012 and projected 650 students by 2022. Instead, its enrollment has declined, to 487 in 2017. At a stated tuition of $11,345, the 18 percent decline in enrollment represents an annual $1.2 million budget shortfall needed to pay operating expenses.

One new source of revenue was achieved in 2015 when the Goodman Foundation generously donated just over $1 million to build a new “sports complex” for the high school, with a requirement that it also serve the community. To the neighborhood’s increasing concern, the high school reported 22 unaffiliated groups used the sports complex in 2016-2017, and 21 in 2017-2018.

But the high school’s approved use for the sports complex, codified in the Campus Master Plan, is to host team practices and physical education classes, not competitions. The high school has violated its master plan agreement by hosting youth soccer, lacrosse and private grade school games, as well as UW teams and others.

So the issue is not just crowd noise and accompanying eight-story lights for a handful of night games. The high school will want to expand the use of a sports complex for the badly needed rental income, and to fulfill its community use agreement with the Goodman Foundation.

Edgewood High School has placed itself between a rock and a hard place. It agreed with Goodman to increase field use, while overlooking its responsibility to first obtain approval for such use.

If this use is approved, the economic odds are in favor of Edgewood expanding further, whatever the conditions. This sentiment is felt throughout the neighborhood as exhibited by the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association’s 18-to-1 vote in opposition and subsequent opposition to the City Council member’s proposal.

Unlike the previous 16 campus projects it supported, our neighborhood association opposes this one because people living across the street in the neighborhood, on two sides of the proposed sports complex, will bear all the negative impacts of such use.

And there goes the neighborhood.

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