WEHS parents say athletics facilities need upgrading for varsity play

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Photo by Greg Ford
Wylie East’s football field is grass, which
some parents say makes it impossible to
practice on during inclement weather.
Currently, they said, the school’s athletic
facilities, specifically for football, baseball
and softball, are not adequate for Class 4A
varsity competition, which East is expected
to participate in starting in fall 2010.


By Greg Ford
Sports Editor

The 2008 Wylie bond issue had nearly $14 million earmarked to upgrade the athletic facilities at Wylie East.
It failed to pass.
Now, some WEHS parents are concerned their teams will be behind the eight ball competitionwise, especially when varsity play begins in 2010.

Specifically, they’d like field turf to be laid on the football practice field and lights installed at the baseball and softball fields.
Wylie Superintendent Dr. H. John Fuller understands the plight and said he wants it, as well as other East-related issues, addressed as soon as possible, perhaps through another bond issue.

“When it rains, there’s really no place to practice (football),” said Dan Lyke, treasurer for the Wylie East Boosters. “There is (the football field), but last year they limited the use of this, because they used it for junior high (football).”

The current field is grass, which gets torn up from repetitive use and would be difficult, if not impossible, to practice on in inclement weather.

“I think turf would help us with playing conditions,” Lyke said.

Around $1.9 million in bond money was designated for turf field, fencing and lighting at the football and softball fields and bleachers and press boxes at the softball and baseball field.

“Granted, there is a higher up-front cost, but when you turf it, then you’ve eliminated your maintenance costs, other than the brushing, that you have to do with it,” said Wylie East Booster president Steve Oliver.
He added, “You would have some kind of all-weather field … If it’s raining, you could still practice if you had turf on this field and still have a decent practice.”

The lack of lighting for baseball and softball hurts teams in January and February, when there is not as much daylight.

“Of course, the baseball team starts practicing in January, and it gets dark at five, 5:30, 5:45,” Lyke said.

Wylie students are dismissed at 4:15 p.m.

“You’ve got to allow two to two and a half hours for a game,” Oliver said. “To be able get a game in February, you’re going to have to start at 3:30 p.m. before it’s too dark, and they don’t get out of school until 4:15 p.m.”
Wylie East begins varsity play in 2010, most likely as a Class 4A school.

“Varsity is what we’re really concerned about,” Lyke said. “They’re going to be competing with Highland Park-quality teams, and the facilities are (not) near what those other schools are.”

No budget money is currently available to meet the aforementioned requests, Fuller said.
However, he noted, the school board could again examine pursuing another bond, and structure it to pass muster with local citizens.

The November bond lost by less than 75 votes (1,741-1,642). Should the board choose to pursue another bond issue, Fuller would like to see it voted on this November.
Fuller said he’s “confident” a majority would support it if they understand the need.

“There will be no stepchild school as long as I am in this district,” he said.

There is $15 million available from a 2004 bonds, $13 million of which is designated for a 10th elementary school.
Wylie East was part of that bond, Dr. Fuller said, and the school board could choose to use some or all of that money to upgrade Wylie East’s facilities.

“I think that would be an item up for discussion if we have another failed bond issue,” he said.

If East’s athletic facilities are not improved by the 2010-2011 season, “continency” plans will be made for the East varsity teams to use fields and structures at Wylie High School and perhaps those belonging to the city.

“That’s not what I’m looking for, but it is certainly a contingency plan,” Fuller said.

No lights for baseball and softball is something most Garland high schools have dealt with for years.

“One of the advantages we have over a lot of districts is that we start at 7:30 a.m. Our athletic periods start at 1:20 p.m., so we’ve got plenty of daylight,” said Sachse athletic director Mark Behrens.

Sachse’s football practice fields are grass, but, Behrens noted, they do drain well.

“But it does become a problem in Garland, unless you have access to a turf field, so I can understand (Wylie East’s) concerns.”

Also, he noted, the football team often cuts back practice hours as the days get shorter.

“The only problem are the elements we run into,” Behrens said. “We don’t have the indoor facility like Wylie, and no one does in Garland. If you make the playoffs and go two or three (rounds deep), we usually end up renting out somebody’s (field) to work out in.”

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