Columnist: New school deserves great fields
Vail CO, Colorado
A vital part of any school campus is the athletic facility.
There is an important school board meeting on July 11 at 6 p.m. where members of the public can offer their input regarding plans for the new Battle Mountain High School. The athletic facilities in the current plan only feature a grass field with a track and no bleachers. The plan is to play football games at the existing Battle Mountain High School site. Many of us in the Battle Mountain athletic department feel that this is misguided. Let’s build a school with a showpiece athletic facility. If you agree with this then show up at the board meeting and contact your school board.
We coaches feel that artificial turf and bleachers are important and will have benefits throughout the school year. At the June 27 board meeting the schematic design for the project was approved by the board. Artificial turf, bleachers and a press box were labeled as “Add-Alt” items meaning they will be priced as possible additions if the finances allow. We feel that these should be included as part of the plan and not seen as a luxury item to possibly add on. This has become increasingly evident as the amount proposed to be spent on other projects is examined.
The biggest reasons for playing games at the new facility have to do with safety and participation. Any time you play sports at an “off site” location, participation goes way down. The very kids who need activities the most are likely to drop out of those activities when barriers to entry such as transportation are placed in their way. The games should be played at the school.
Liability issues are presented when younger players are seeking rides from older players to a remote location. Home games and pregame practices in Eagle-Vail would move 40 percent of the football week to an off-site location and dramatically impact attendance at games and participation, not to mention requiring duplicating of locker rooms, custodial services, administrators, etc.
The education specifications group that met over the winter outlined in the document it produced the need for an artificial-surface playing field to incorporate anticipated heavy use and shoulder season weather. Spring practices for high school sports begin in February in Colorado and football season lasts into November. This should have become the template for the design, as mandated in the “ed specs”.
With lacrosse on the horizon, the spring season looks to be increasingly busy at Battle Mountain. At this altitude and in this climate, an artificial surface seems logical. Just ask the guys who shoveled the football field twice last fall!
School districts traditionally are not great maintainers of grass fields and heavy traffic on those fields exacerbates that problem. One can easily see the value of artificial surfaces in Steamboat, Nederland, Broomfield, Vail Mountain School and Aspen. The artificial fields have held up to heavy use, conserved water and become great community resources for multiple sports and events. With two or three sports, plus gym classes, our one field at the new school could see at least eight hours of use daily.
There is the feeling amongst some people that there is a turf field across the street that the school can use at will. The Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District has announced that this will not be the case with multiple youth sports, private schools and other activities all competing for use of that surface. The school needs a field of its own.
Cost will be an issue. We won’t make the argument that artificial surfaces pay for themselves with reduced maintenance costs over time, though some allege that to be the case. They are expensive. The number that was quoted at the recent meeting, however, represented less than 1 percent of the overall bond issue that we voted for in the fall. With hundreds of students represented by track, football and soccer, plus another hundred or so interested in lacrosse, the numbers seem to justify this expenditure.
An eight-lane track is great but the lack of bleachers would prevent hosting home meets. The other problem with two sites will be the need to purchase or transport numerous hurdles, jumping pits, pole vault mats, and football equipment back and forth between the practices and the meets.
Edwards business owners see the advantages in hosting large track meets and games in their town. Events stocked with hundreds of hungry teenagers and their families can be a boon for business. Incidentally, games and meets occur during the shoulder seasons.
There is an argument that we can play football games back in Eagle-Vail, though the “stadium” at the current Eagle-Vail field features substandard lighting. Recent renovations to this facility were partially paid for with Colorado Lottery money. The field is used by the public and junior high schools and that use will continue. Members of the public will continue to use that track each day.
This facility will outlast all of our careers. We need to look decades into the future and predict what will be needed then. Let’s try and do this right the first time so we don’t have to come back and fix it in coming years. Costs will only rise. Let’s not leave major portions of this for the future. Let’s build a facility now that we can be proud of.
Cost has been cited as a possible reason for not building a proper athletic facility at the new high school yet we have seen other projects double in scope and some even being added that were not in the original bond. Still posted on the Web site at http://www.eagleschools.net is the wording of the bond, which said, “replace Battle Mountain High School.”
Hold them to their words and your votes! The next school board meeting at 6 p.m. is July 11 at the District Office in Eagle. See you there.
David Cope is a teacher and a coach at Battle Mountain High School.