Changes might be made to allow for some public access to the Boiling Springs High School stadium complex, a top official with the South Middleton School District said Tuesday.
“In the wake of the concerns being raised, the athletic committee is going to sit down at length and talk about it,” Superintendent James Estep said. “The AD [athletic director] has some ideas. Some ideas are coming from the maintenance department and probably some from [school] board members on the committee.”
There were renewed calls Monday by parents of student athletes to reopen the stadium that was closed in late August 2018 to limit wear and tear on the track and all-purpose artificial turf field.
The track and turf at that time had exceeded their life expectancy. One goal of the closure was to extend the life of the complex for student athletes and physical education classes.
In February 2020, school board members awarded $960,151 in contracts to replace the track and turf. That project was completed that summer.
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Two years have gone by since then and during that time there has been high turnover in both the school board and district administration. There have also been periodic requests to reopen the stadium to public access.
Certain considerations need to be discussed for any change in access to be possible, Estep said Tuesday. “If we open this up, how long is it going to be open, how many days a week? Do we have some degree of supervisory ability to make sure things are running smoothly with no vandalism?”
The next meeting of the Athletics and Student Activities Committee is scheduled for 6 p.m. July 25 in the board room of the district administrative wing in the Iron Forge Elementary School.
The renewed calls Monday referenced a lease agreement the district has with the HMMS Youth Soccer Association to use the turf field during the summer. HMMS is short for Hampden-Middlesex-Monroe-Silver Spring.
The South Middleton School District parents questioned the fairness of providing access to the stadium to a soccer club that draws its players from the Mechanicsburg and Cumberland Valley school districts.
“They have plenty more resources than we do,” Jim Decker said. “We just have the one field. They have access to numerous fields so I’m not sure why we are allowing a club soccer team to work out there.
“I’ve heard some stuff about wear and tear on the field,” Decker said. “Are we not concerned that they are putting 30 kids here practicing and playing games on that field.”
Jeff Bush, the father of three field hockey players, based his comments on the South Middleton motto of “One Township … One Community … One School District.”
“We only have one turf [field] for our kids to practice on and they don’t have access to it,” Bush said. “I would like to get that changed as soon as possible. I’m not looking at this point for carte blanche public access, but I think we can bring student athletes here to use our facility.”
Estep said the soccer club followed district policy and administrative procedures by submitting a request to use the turf field in writing and providing proof of insurance for liability purposes. “They are paying the board-approved fee that we charge organizations for using our facilities,” Estep said.
“I don’t think necessarily that someone is trying to demonize the outside group,” he said, referring to the soccer club. “But I understand the question that if an outside group is using the turf field, then why can’t our kids. The short answer — that doesn’t seem to be resonating — is that our coaching staff can do a facilities use request with the maintenance department to reserve usage of the field for summer workouts x number of days for x number of hours.”
Bush referred to a packet of information his daughters received from the district outlining the available times this summer for physical training on the turf field. Bush said student athletes have summer jobs that conflict with the allotted times reserved by the team coaches. He called on school board members to arrange for greater flexibility so that all student athletes can have the workout time they need in the stadium.
“The sense that I got is the board is listening to them,” Estep said Tuesday. “Board members are paying attention to what these concerned parents are saying. Even after the meeting was over, they were throwing out suggestions in an informal manner.
“This is how things get done,” Estep said. “Conversations occur. Concerns get expressed. The committees then revisit it and come up with a solution.”
The facilities committee of the school board discussed stadium access in March and again on June 6, Estep said. “At the time, they didn’t feel they could make a recommendation.”
A summary of the discussion is included in the June 6 meeting minutes. Ryan Frey, supervisor of buildings and grounds, told committee members that most other school districts do not allow unmonitored public access to sports facilities due to the inability to monitor for damage that may be done.
“The committee reviewed all factors and has decided against public use,” the minutes read. “This does not prohibit coaches from scheduling workouts or open field times on which students can use the facilities. It does not prohibit the use of other fields on the campus.”
As before, wear and tear has been a factor. As part of the June 6 discussion, Frey said turf fields need to be replaced every eight to 10 years and tracks every five years.
Joseph Cress is a reporter for The Sentinel covering education and history. You can reach him at [email protected] or by calling 717-218-0022.