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North tackles idea of stadium

October 15, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Officials at North Hagerstown High School, the largest high school in Washington County, will inform the Washington County Board of Education about plans for a stadium on the school's property at tonight's school board meeting.

North Hagerstown Principal Robert "Bo" Myers and teacher and wrestling coach Greg Slick will address the Washington County Board of Education to propose the construction on the south side of the school of a $2.5 million stadium equipped with seating for 1,200, four banks of stadium lights, a press box and a concession stand.

"Our kids don't really have a home and they don't have (a home field) advantage," Myers said.

Slick said the plan calls for a stadium that would look similar to Williamsport High School's stadium, with a press box and smaller-sized visitors bleachers.

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The school now has parking for 280 cars, with a proposal to add 60 more spaces.

North Hagerstown and South Hagerstown high schools currently share School Stadium, which was built in 1957 and has been shared by the schools for 43 years.

Slick said a big reason for the new stadium push is because of expanding teams and programs at both schools that one stadium can't accommodate. The addition of varsity and junior varsity lacrosse teams at the school has made it even harder to share School Stadium due to scheduling conflicts.

All outdoor fall athletic teams, with the exception of varsity football, play most of their home games on North Hagerstown's lower level fields, but because the school has no stadium lighting, teams have to play simultaneously so they can finish matches before dark, Slick said.

"We don't get the thrill of playing under the lights," said Michelle Fickes, 16, a senior on the girls' varsity soccer team.

Officials also are hard to find because the games start right after school and it's a burden on visiting teams because they have to leave school much earlier to be on time for matches, Slick said.

"It makes our transportation costs higher than other schools," he said.

North Hagerstown has not pursued the stadium issue for years because of its proximity to Coffman Nursing Home and the deed restrictions set by its neighbor. Slick said a few years ago an attorney did research on the deed and discovered it only covers the land closest to the nursing home, which is supposed to be free of excessive noise or lights.

Slick said since articles about the initial proposals appeared in The Herald-Mail last April, the school has only gotten one phone call from a concerned neighbor.

Slick said the school will not ask for School Board funding, but wants to know the rules of the game.

He said about 40 people on an Athletic Facilities Committee at the high school have raised only $1,500, which was a donation made by a booster club member for bleachers.

"It's only a drop in the bucket," Slick said.

He said the school wants to tap into an alumni base, do booster fund-raisers and ask for corporate donations.

Slick said North High will host a public hearing on the issue Nov. 11.

North Hagerstown coaches and students support the stadium idea, with the school's football coach emphasizing the home-field advantage he wants his team to have.

"It's ludicrous. These kids have to travel 15 minutes across town just to have a home football game," North Hagerstown football coach Dan Cunningham said.

Girls' soccer coach Rick Aleshire said pursuing a stadium is one of the most important moves the school can make.

"It's time we set up our mascots and logos on our home field," he said.

Matt Ridenour, 15, a sophomore on the junior varsity football team, said he loves the idea of having a school stadium.

"It gives us more pride playing at our home field," he said.

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