Springfield City Schools Board of Education members have discussed possibly moving high school football games from Evans Stadium, which has met with some resistance from the community.
The district emphasized no immediate plans exist to change where Springfield High School football is played this year, and maybe not even next year, but just the mention of a move was enough to lead to intense talks at a board work session last week.
“There’s a lot of people who go and who participate and make sure they’re there for every game. And they are from the south side of town,” board Vice President Wanda Truss said.
The district combined its two high schools into one and opened Springfield High School in 2008 on the site of the former North High School. But it has continued to play football at Evans Stadium, the former South High School field.
Newly appointed board member Chris Williams played football for North and has coached in the district. He outlined several reasons why he thinks games at the combined high school, 701 E. Home Road, could be better for students and the district.
“The cost for a home game is essentially the same as it is for an away game,” Williams said. “Busing, renting trailers for the band and for football equipment and that sort of thing.”
He also mentioned parking congestion on game nights at Evans Stadium, 1700 Clifton Ave., and the inconvenience for student participants who must return to Springfield High on Friday evenings just to be bused to Evans and back again.
Having games at the high school campus might make students more inclined to stick around for the games, Williams said.
“One of the things I’ve heard for many years now is that we have a lack of school spirit,” he said.
Williams has spoken to people in the community who are ready to make the move.
“People can disagree with where the school was built, but it’s there now,” he said. “It’s not going anywhere. So why not move all activities to the campus so that it’s convenient.”
Truss countered that.
“I’ve had conversations that they aren’t ready,” she said.
District staff members raised the issue with the board because they wanted input before moving forward with any capital improvement requests from the athletic department, Superintendent Bob Hill said.
Athletic Director Mike Dellapina and high school Campus Director Jonathan Kuehnle have been putting together a list of improvements they’d like to see for all the athletic facilities as the board considers updating its capital improvements plan.
“Two or three years ago we sought recommendations from all departments and all schools for capital items, and then we trimmed the wish list into a capital plan,” said Kim Fish, district communications consultant.
Now as the district begins that process again, Treasurer Dale Miller is collecting those wish lists from every department to be trimmed down and presented to the board on Oct. 8.
“Improvements for both Evans Stadium and (Springfield High) Stadium are on the first-pass list that the athletic department submitted,” Fish said. “When they looked through that wish list, some of the board members raised early questions about considering where we play our football games.”
To function as a full-service stadium, Springfield High’s field would need some significant upgrades, Hill said.
Dale Henry, president of the South Gateway Neighborhood Association, said he’d like to see the games remain at Evans because it’s good for the neighborhood and strikes a fair balance since the high school consolidated on the north side of town.
“(Evans) has been in pretty good shape as far as I know,” he said.
He also questioned the need to spend money to upgrade the former Springfield Panther Stadium if Evans is in good condition.
“I would be interested to see what the difference in cost for any upgrades would be at the high school compared to Evans,” he said.
Games at Evans have been a community tradition, Fish said at the work session, and any changes should be made with careful consideration.
“I know that the Friday night football games at Evans create a real sense of community among an entirely different part of the population than the kids and the parents,” she said.
The board also discussed other opportunities for Evans Stadium, including using it as a middle school sports complex and using it to re-introduce an expanded intramural program.
“That would be an advantage in that you’re making a community facility,” Hill said.
The board agreed to have more discussion on the topic, possibly at a future work session specifically on athletics.
“While the use of our two wonderful stadiums will likely be discussed more later this year, and while this topic will always spark a great deal of interest and strong opinions, no decision nor even a plan for collecting data to consider making a change exists at this time,” Fish said.