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Guest Commentary / Everett School District

High schools still badly need new fields

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By Bob Smithson
During my 68 years of life I have had the opportunity to play and or coach from little league to the minor leagues. I have also had the opportunity to play on, modify and maintain many baseball facilities as well as have input into the design and construction of other facilities.
Over the last several weeks I have had the opportunity to coach a summer baseball team. In the course of our schedule to date we have traveled in Washington as far south as Federal Way and east to Pullman. The facilities we have played on varied from premier to above average, with many sites having been multi-purpose artificial surfaces. Some were artificial infield only and some were full artificial. There was one middle school that sported an artificial infield. The communities raved about the advantages to youth programs and the little to no maintenance that was required. On the baseball field, the only dirt was that on the mound and was so easy to protect with a small tarp. Some facilities are considering a mound using artificial material which takes away any unplayable issues.
Then last weekend we found ourselves at Cascade High School for a series of games. was truly appalled at the condition of the baseball field. It was by far the worst facility the team has played on this year, even bordering on dangerous. Having coached for 14 years at the CHS site and many years at other sites, I have seen an incredible number of baseball facilities and wonder why the facility is in such disrepair.
Since our recent games, I have discovered that the very strong defensive CHS baseball team made more errors at their own facility than away, a direct result of the density of the infield and the incredible lip buildup. While prepping the field I noticed a large run-off area from one of the sprinkler heads that over soaked the infield and nearly made it unplayable. I ask the question: Is there someone on-site who takes care of the facility? Then, I exit the freeway at 41st and see the $25 million dollar facility dedicated to administration and think of what could have been. Artificial fields all around for both Jackson High School and Cascade High School.
What an incredible legacy it would have been for the school board to have really made the truly hard decision to serve the community and students with safe, almost maintenance-free, revenue-producing artificial surfaces.
Their decision to postpone real student and community needs was not hard. All it took was a simple board vote to spend 25 million capital reserve dollars. The truly hard decision would have been to float a bond and let the voters really have the input they were seeking and spend the reserves on kids and community.
I know without a doubt that board members come from various backgrounds and bring diverse agendas to the table, but it is really hard to understand the spending of $25 million for reasons that were quoted by the board president at the time. (Adults couldn't locate some of the administrative sites and adults had to stand up during some board presentations.) Are they really serious? Adults can't read a map or use an iPhone or call for directions, and the board can't use the divisible classrooms in the existing structure along with closed circuit TV for the board meetings. It's almost like buying a new car because the tires are worn.
So, the new structure is almost completed and the board and superintendent will look at this major accomplishment, add it to their resume material, talk about the great olive branch (all weather tracks) dispensed to JHS and CHS. I hope every parent with a soccer player, football player, softball player and baseball player, as well as all PE and band participants, at JHS and CHS reads this and renews their resolve to hold this school board accountable for their truly self-serving use of $25 million from capital reserves. There were complaints upon complaints about athletic facilities being in horrible condition and dangerous, but I would be willing to guess that the number of complaints about standing at board meetings or not being able to find a particular office location in the ESD system were really very minimal. I certainly didn't see any letters to The Herald complaining about it.
Having seen the disparity for years as to what the different sites have is truly amazing. Everett football (artificial) Everett soccer (artificial) Everett softball (artificial) Everett PE (artificial)/ Then we look at CHS/JHS facilities (all questionable except for the new tracks).
Bob Smithson lives in Mill Creek.

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