CCSD to study Stoney Field, again

Burke High School has been forced to play home games at The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium this season. (Paul Zoeller/Staff)

The Charleston County School District will commission a geotechnical study of Stoney Field as interested parties debate the future of the historic home of Burke High School football.

Schools superintendent Gerrita Postlewait told community representatives Tuesday that CCSD will hire an engineering firm to study soil conditions at Stoney Field, which Burke has not been able to use for home games so far this season.

She said that Burke representatives will be involved in selecting the firm to do the study, which should take about six months to complete.

“When we get this information, we can reconvene and we will have enough data to consider our options,” Postlewait said at a meeting called by Rep. Wendell Gilliard at City Hall.

The future of Stoney Field has been a topic of debate after Burke was forced to move home games due to unplayable field conditions caused by recent heavy rains and flooding at the 50-year-old city-owned facility.

One game was played at Ravenel Stadium in West Ashley before The Citadel stepped up to allow Burke to play at its Johnson Hagood Stadium, which is next door to the downtown high school’s campus.

Burke has played twice at Johnson Hagood, and its final two home games also are scheduled to be played there. Stoney Field has been used for youth football games this year.

Gilliard applauded The Citadel for being a “good neighbor,” but said that a long-term solution for Burke and Stoney Field is needed.

“My constituents want to know, where do we go from here?” Gilliard said.

It’s not the first time that question has been asked. Former Burke athletic director and basketball coach Earl Brown said he recalled a study done in 2006 that determined the soil at Stoney Field was better than that at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

Estimates for a new stadium at Stoney Field at that time ranged from $6 million to $10 million. But the field there — built on top of a landfill near a marsh alongside the Ashley River — has sunk about 2 1/2 feet in the last seven years, said Jeff Borowy, the deputy for capital programs at CCSD. New construction there might require pilings to support it, driving up the cost.

Charleston County councilman Elliott Summey suggested a stadium-sharing deal between Burke and The Citadel, which would require a new artificial turf field at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Citadel athletic director Jim Senter said that two teams cannot continue to play on a grass field at Johnson Hagood indefinitely.

CCSD is currently planning shared stadiums in North Charleston and in Mount Pleasant for when a second East Cooper high school is built, Postlewait said.

“Our county has not put a lot of money into athletic facilities,” said CCSD’s Michael Bobby. “That’s evident as you go across the county.”

With the new WestEdge development going up across the street from Stoney Field, Burke supporters are anxious about the fate of the football stadium.

“We shouldn’t kick this can down the road any further,” said Arthur Lawrence of the Friends of Burke group. “Why can’t the school district and the city solve this problem?”