In recent weeks there have been opinions expressed about the proposed new high school and athletic facilities suggesting that while the former is necessary, the latter is not. As members of the WCHS Athletic Booster Club, we wholeheartedly disagree. Without question, academics come first and Woodford County is most definitely in need of a new high school. But the role of athletics in the lives of our students and the current inadequate condition and proximity of our facilities cannot be overstated. Fifty percent of the students at WCHS participate in one or more sports, and many work tirelessly to parlay their talent and commitment into scholarships that make it possible for them to attend college. Unfortunately, the facilities we have are well below the standard enjoyed by nearly every county with which we compete. We want to encourage more kids to take an interest in athletics and to be proud of their school’s programs. But when our young people are not able to train and play using the safest and best equipment, fields and accommodations, that task becomes troublesome.
First, there is the location problem. Almost all sports have their playing and/or practice areas away from the high school. The logistics of getting students from point A to point B is not only a financial one (buses cost money), but a safety one. If our academic and athletic facilities were all on one campus, not only would transportation not be an issue, but coaches could easily ensure that every player either safely left in his/her own car or was picked up by a parent or other authorized adult. It would also make it possible for our athletic trainer extraordinaire to service several sports at one time, and for visiting fans to actually be able to find where their kid is playing.
Second, there is the condition of our equipment and facilities. Our girls’ softball team is one of the best in the state, yet our field lacks restrooms, a press box and a concession stand, and its bleacher area is not handicapped accessible. Boys’ baseball has a modest press box and one individual restroom each for men and women—both they and the softball team utilize portable toilets—but their seating area is not designed to accommodate handicapped fans and there is no ramp, lift or even staircase to assist anyone to the top of that hill. Community Stadium, which is shared by football, soccer and lacrosse, is woefully outdated and dismal. The restrooms and field house/locker rooms have leaking commodes, curtains instead of doors, minimal lighting and the constant scent of sewage for all to enjoy.
A separate truck is brought in to sell pizza and drinks for the games because the concession areas are inadequate for our needs, and the seating area here is also not appropriately equipped for those with disabilities. Throw in the grungy press box and temperamental sound system and you get an accurate picture of how Woodford County presents itself to visiting teams.
At the high school, the weight room is small, filled with broken and/or aging equipment and floods like the Mississippi Delta every time it rains. There are inadequate locker room facilities, a tiny concession area, and no auxiliary gym space to allow multiple sports to practice/play at the same time. Because of this, scheduling is a nightmare and our kids are often practicing well into the night and not necessarily in a space that was designed for their sport. Even those that use off-campus areas have to share with other sports and younger players because these are community spaces. Swimming is at the mercy of the Falling Springs schedule, pee-wee football plays on the practice field at the stadium making it impossible for the high school guys to practice there on nights soccer has the main field, and the soccer guys and gals can’t use the stadium when football has it. Because the BH complex is used by baseball, softball and the rec leagues, our players often get the leftover times and are there until 10 p.m. or later. Add to that the fact that our teams have to pay to use non-school facilities - the money to do this largely earned from their own fundraising and concession working - and you have an unfortunate scenario for our coaches, parents and players.
Lastly, a central campus with designated areas for each sport, appropriate gym space and a proper workout room will not only solve the problems listed above but will help cultivate the most important component in all of this: community. Many of us remember a time when much of the town turned out to watch our kids play their sports and proudly cheer for Woodford County. It seems to be pride, in fact, that has compelled some of the folks who were a part of the building of Community Stadium to write in and decry the call for new facilities.
They seem to take this call personally, lamenting the cost and believing it to be a slight against what they worked so hard to accomplish. Neither could be further from the truth. With the proposed tax (5.5 cents without new sports facilities/6 cents with) the difference is negligible. For those 65 and older, the cost would be even less. The Homestead Exemption allows homeowners to deduct the current exemption amount - the Kentucky Department of Revenue lists the 2017-2018 deduction at $37,600 - from their home’s assessed value and pay property taxes on the reduced number.
We are all deeply grateful for the existence of the old stadium and agree that it was perfect at the time and impressive that it was accomplished largely through donations and fundraising. However, in 2018 the cost of a new facility that can appropriately accommodate all sports makes that method unfeasible. And our hope is that such a facility would once again serve as a gathering place for the people of Woodford County. A place where our kids can showcase their intellectual, artistic and athletic talents to the cheers of the community who supports them.