Soon after the Alexandria Dukes open their home season Saturday, the minor league baseball team finally will have a place for their umpires to dress and adequate office space.
The Alexandria School Board last week changed its mind and approved the team's request to lease two more rooms in Cora Kelly Elementary School, which is adjacent to Four Mile Run Field, the Dukes' home ballpark. In past years, the team used four rooms at Cora Kelly, but team officials complained of crowded conditions and asked for more space.
On March 17, the board voted 7 to 1 against a motion to lease two additional rooms to the Dukes. At that time, various board members likened the team's growth to "crabgrass" and complained of "creeping Dukism."
But after receiving a formal request from the City Council to reconsider the Dukes' request, the board passed a similar motion last Wednesday by a vote of 6 to 3. It allows the team to lease through the city two rooms at a "reasonable price," with the money to be returned to the school system.
But the debate is far from dead.
"I think we voted against it the first time because of the real concern on the part of the board that the neighborhood is alarmed every time a vote is taken to increase the Dukes' space," said board member Judith A. Feaver, who introduced the motion which the board passed. "But once we were formally requested to do so by the City Council, we said, 'Okay, we have expressed our concern but we will do it now.' "
Ruby Tucker, president of the Cora Kelly PTA, said the board "has lost credibility" by the vote, however. "It's arm-twisting from the City Council," she said. "Why do we even have a School Board?"
Board chairman Shirley N. Tyler, who voted both times against the Dukes, called the board's decision "an abdication of the School Board's responsibility to look at the total picture in making a judgment."
Dukes officials who attended the meeting expressed relief that the matter had been resolved, but said the team had expected the board to come through with the space.
"I think the City Council is very much behind us, and I think it made a difference in the vote," said Eric Zimmerman, assistant general manager of the team, which is affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
At the same meeting, the School Board also voted--although this time unanimously--to allow the Alexandria Daycare Center, a city-run facility for 40 children, to move into three unused rooms at Cora Kelly.