By Ray Hamill — Spending $8 million to host one varsity sporting event annually is what the Northern Humboldt Union Board of Trustees is being accused of proposing, and it’s not sitting well with a number of local coaches and parents.
The board is scheduled to vote on the issue of the proposed new Arcata High sports fields at Tuesday night’s meeting, but many are critical of the proposal, and critical of the board for the way the issue is being handled.
“They made the decision on opinion not fact,” one concerned coach/parent Ben Ebert said. “They’re miss-investing public money. That’s what it comes down to.”
The public had the opportunity to give feedback on the proposal at last month’s board meeting, and despite numerous concerns voiced, the board has decided to go ahead and vote on the proposal.
And that decision has not been received well by many people within the local sports community, who feel more research and feedback is needed.
The current proposal is for an $8 million complex that would include facilities for track and field, along with practice facilities for football and baseball, on a raised natural grass field that is supposed to provide better drainage on a field that is know for its terrible drainage.
It would, however, remove the soccer field and essentially play host to just one varsity track and field meet a year, with the football team continuing to play games at the Redwood Bowl and the baseball team continuing to split its home games between McKinleyville High and the Arcata Ballpark.
The current proposal would actually take away a home field for two more of the school’s teams, boys and girls soccer, doubling the number of Arcata teams that would have to travel to off-campus fields, and not just for games, but also for practice.
And that has current girls head coach Patrick Stranahan concerned about the safety of his players.
“There’s the liability of traveling to off-campus sites,” he said.
It was suggested the Tigers would play their soccer games at the Arcata Sports Complex, and practice at Bloomfield Elementary.
The Arcata complex is often closed as soon as the first rains hit, however, and Stranahan is concerned about the safety of his players having to practice every day on a Bloomfield field “full of gopher holes.”
On the upside the proposal would provide the Tigers with a brand new track and field facility, something that would definitely benefit the boys and girls track teams.
With the high cost of the proposal, however, critics want a facility that will benefit more teams, and have been vocal about building an all-weather field that could comfortably house football, baseball, both soccer teams, and track field, all on the same field.
“Every sport should be represented,” said Arcata Athletic Director Troy Ghisetti, who recommended the all-weather facility when approached by the board.
As of Monday evening, superintendent Roger Macdonald had not responded to a phone call from HumboldtSports.com.
At the most recent meeting, when the proposal was unveiled, he cited the cost of maintaining an all-weather surface long term as a problem, along with environmental and health concerns.
According to Ebert, in regard to the environmental and health concerns, “board members stated to me personally that no formal studies had been conducted.”
The board did not comment on the potential revenue streams from a rare all-weather field in the area, nor the money that would be saved from no longer renting the Redwood Bowl and other off-campus fields.
One coach even suggested naming rights for what would be one of the premier facilities in the area.
Two letters were sent to the board last week, one from Ebert and one from a group of concerned parents/coaches, calling for more discussion on the issue.
“If people don’t react now, they’ll never have the chance,” long-time Arcata assistant coach Bob Wallace said.
“Despite public concern expressed at the community meeting, it is clear that the board plans to proceed with the proposal as presented,” one of the letters to the board of trustees read. “The action is being taken 12 days after the plan was presented to the public for the first and only time.”
The meeting will be held at the Arcata High Library at 6 p.m.