Pictured above are pre-game warmups of the Sept. 27 football game between Marysville and Big Walnut high schools. The game was the first played in Marysville’s news stadium. Timeline delays, cost overruns and other issues led the stadium project to secure the number one spot on the list of 2019’s top 10 local stories. (Journal-Tribune photo by Chad Williamson)
Editor’s note: As the new year approaches, the Journal-Tribune newsroom staff has compiled a list of the top local stories of 2019. Staffers voted on the top news stories of the year and the top 5 stories appear below. Stories 6-10 were detailed in Monday’s Journal-Tribune.
The three top stories of 2019 in Union County had staying power.
In fact, nearly every month of the year saw updates on those top stories – a high school stadium project, the local population’s struggle with mental health issues and suicide and the area’s rapidly expanding number of apartment communities. Rounding out the top five were Marysville’s 200th birthday and the announcement of two much anticipated eateries in the area.
1) Marysville Stadium Construction Process, Alcohol Sales Considered
Marysville has an impressive new football stadium, but the road to open the facility was filled with pivots.
For the past two years Marysville has been preparing for a 2019 opening of a new varsity football stadium. Included in the project would be an adjoining track facility and a football stadium at Bunsold Middle School. Artificial turf would be used on both football fields.
Original estimates of $8.9 million for the work and a fall opening were quickly in question in early 2019. Late in 2018, bids for the project came in too high, forcing the project timeline to be adjusted and a new round of bidding initiated.
Acceptable bids came in early in 2019, but in February district officials made the decision to relocate high school graduation because demolition of the old stadium would be well underway. The May graduation ceremony was held at the Columbus Convention Center.
Construction of the facility was plagued by problems. A wet spring forced long periods of inactivity on the project. Several dry weeks during the summer months allowed construction crews to make up some ground and just as officials saw hope of saving the season opening games, another setback struck the project.
During installation of the press box, the metal enclosure around the main electrical junction for the facility was damaged meaning that any portion of the work that involved electrical wiring had to be delayed.
School officials decided that the facility would not be ready for the home football opener on Aug. 30 and moved the game to a neutral site at Olentangy High School. The game the next week was also moved, to Hilliard Bradley, as the stadium was still not finished.
The third and fourth contests were away games, leaving the fifth game of the season Sept. 27 as the next scheduled home game. Crews were still scrambling to finish work, but the game was played at the new stadium under a temporary occupancy permit, though it was not completed with structures like the scoreboard still not in operation. The team beat Big Walnut 38-10 in the stadium opener.
The Sept. 27 game was to also have been homecoming, but uncertainty over construction led officials to change the homecoming game to Oct. 11 against Westland.
Marysville would finish the regular season 6-4 and make the state playoffs, falling in the opening round to Springfield. Though they did not get to host their own playoff game, the Ohio High School Athletic Association did select the new stadium to host two neutral site playoff games in November.
Construction delays pushed the final price tag for the projects to $11.3 million.
In May, the stadium also made headlines as the district board of education heard first reading on a policy change that would have allowed alcohol to be served at the stadium, if rented by community organizations for private events during the summer months. Alcohol at all school affiliated events would continue to be prohibited.
The policy mandated that the renting organization would be responsible for obtaining a permit from the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, pay for security and carry $1 million of liability insurance.
Many members of the community did not like the idea and voiced their disapproval, privately and at the June school board meeting. At that meeting, board members removed the policy from the agenda, to gather more information, before its second and final reading.
As of the end of 2019 the issue has not reappeared before the board.
2) Suicide Rates at Record Level, Mental Health Crisis
In 2019, Union County became painfully aware of the mental health crisis facing the community.
The year saw multiple youth and adult suicides.
Mental health and school officials began working to create easily accessible programs to address the crisis.
In September, the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Union County (MHRBUC) was awarded $4 million to increase access to mental health care for children and expand available care. The grant, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), will provide nearly $1 million each year for four years – the largest grant awarded to communities for children’s mental health.
Additionally, state officials, recognizing that schools are now required to provide mental health assistance, approved the Student Wellness and Success Fund, a $675-million grant that will provide funding to every school district in the state. Over the next two years, local districts will receive nearly $3 million to be used to provide non-academic supports, or “wraparound services,” such as mental or physical health services.
For fiscal year 2020, North Union will receive $389,074; Marysville, $293,464; Jonathan Alder, $216,189; Fairbanks, $212,594; and Triad, $99,103.The amounts are even higher the next year. In fiscal year 2021, North Union will receive $568,544; Marysville, $418,444; Jonathan Alder, $308,952; Fairbanks, $308,336; and Triad, $141,804.
In cooperation with existing services, many local schools are using the funding to add new personnel. Several districts are creating a pilot position, called a school navigator.
Even so, the last month of 2019 held another tragedy – the suicide of a Bunsold Middle School student.
3) Apartment, Housing Developments in Area Surge
Nearly every part of the city saw residential expansion or plans for expansion. In 2019, the city has 1,691 multi-family units approved or pending according to the Marysville-Union County Economic Development. If finished, those homes will more than double the current stock of apartments.
Additionally, there are more than 500 new single-family homes, completed, under construction or approved in 2019.
Officials around the county created a housing council to address the lack of affordable housing options in the community, though many agree the proposed homes do not meet the need for affordability.
The growth has had a mixed reaction. Some residents welcome the new homes, recognizing the new homes will lower home prices and attract new jobs and business opportunities. Others fear the growth will change the dynamic of the town, tax city services and overcrowd schools.
4) Texas Roadhouse, Panera Send Town into Tizzy
A pair of national chain restaurants were met with great enthusiasm in 2019.
Officials from Panera Bread in April announced plans to build in Marysville. In October, plans to open a Texas Roadhouse were announced.
The Texas Roadhouse restaurant will be on 2.17 acres of currently vacant land directly south of the building at 16645 Square Drive.
The current code requires the building to be set 40 feet back from Square Drive and to face that roadway. The proposed 7,462 square foot building will sit close to U.S. 33.
Restaurant officials said they expect to create 130 new jobs.
Texas Roadhouse officials said their restaurants average about 5,000 visitors a week.
The Panera Bread, located on Lydia Drive (between Boston’s and Comfort Suites) within the City Gate development, is nearing completion. The 4,200 square foot facility will have a variety of seating, an outside patio and a drive thru.
5) City Celebrates Bicentennial
In August, the city capped a year-long celebration with two days of festivities honoring Marysville’s 200th birthday. Throughout 2019, the city held a variety of special events. On Aug. 16-17, streets were closed for art exhibits, carriage rides, games and bounce houses, vendors, musical entertainment, performers, food and even a zip line.
According to officials, the city spent more than $106,000 on the two-day event, but generated nearly $30,000.
Patio lights rented for the bicentennial celebration have expanded and been made a permanent part of the city’s Uptown. Additionally, the city added a speaker system to the Uptown to add a musical ambiance.
City officials are also discussing the possibility of making the Marysville Outdoor Refreshment Area (MORA) an every-weekend event. Within that district, residents can buy a drink from an event or restaurant and carry it throughout the Uptown. Residents can take that drink into participating businesses, but not into other liquor-selling establishments.
Other items receiving votes but not placing in the top 10 include the collapse of Plain City’s water deal with Columbus and the refusal of Plain City and Marysville to work together on a deal, the potential sale of the local YMCA to the city of Marysville, a fatal plane crash in Jerome Township, the trench collapse that killed a worker, the community wide effort to return the remains of local hero John “Blackie” Porter, FedEx makes $1-million payment and West Central Community Based Corrections Center celebrates 20th anniversary.
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