The Wiley gym replacement is a project of the 2016 school construction bond which was the only bond in our county’s history that was approved by every voting precinct. Moving the Wiley gym is a necessary part of the stadium plan proposed by Home Field Advantage, a private fundraising group associated with Reynolds High School athletics. Because of this connection, the group originally planned to cover the cost of demolishing and replacing the Wiley gym. Its eventual inclusion on the 2016 bond relieved that group of a costly aspect of their original pledge and brought a key component of their private project into the public process.
Design work on the gym is slated to begin this spring. However, stadium advocates have long been eager to accelerate the project. In response to their requests, the WS/FCS Building & Grounds Committee under the leadership of Lida Calvert-Hayes first considered moving the Wiley gym project higher on the bond schedule in February of 2017*. Out of respect for the bond agreement with the public and out of concern for public safety, that proposal did not pass committee.
Now under the leadership of new board member Leah Crowley, wife of R. J. Reynolds’ head football coach Pat Crowley and an active member of Home Field Advantage, the Building & Grounds Committee once again brought the accelerated demolition of Wiley gym forward for consideration. This time members decided on a 4-1 vote to move up the timeline of the project.
The benefits of the acceleration, even with regard to the stadium project, were not made clear during the committee meeting. Although many valid questions and cautions were raised about the impact of the decision on Wiley students, discussion was suppressed during review, a fact that caused alarm among staff and more experienced members of the school board.
Some board members raised the issue of the apparent conflict of interest of Leah Crowley on this matter, and others questioned the intent behind the move. Crowley refused to acknowledge any conflict of interest. However, during subsequent discussion, Crowley said the vote was justified because “the stadium is shovel ready.” She later told a reporter that the change is not because of the stadium but to benefit Wiley.
Details have been compiled for review by the full board in its meeting on Tuesday, February 12. The board will review three options for accelerating the Wiley gym and RJR stadium construction, compared with the original bond schedule. You can review the full WS/FCS powerpoint of the options at this link: 02-12-2019 BOE Wiley Gym Project Options.