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Uh-oh! It's that word 'stadium' again

November 19, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

It's allergy season in Hagerstown.

The weather and seasons may change, but the symptoms stay the same.

Teary eyes. Hot sensations under the collar. Limited range of vision. And in some cases, a lack of comprehension of the big picture.

It's called stadi-itis.

It has something to do with venues that house local sporting events.

For the last 12 years, reactions have been confined to summer months when it surrounded a facility for a certain minor league baseball team.

There has been itching and scratching for years, with the cons outweighing the pros about such a deal.

It seems that phase of the disease got a remedy recently ... a Republican election.

But the latest chapter of the so-called infection could be called school flu.

Lately, temperatures have been rising over North Hagerstown's proposal to have a stadium facility built on its own school grounds.

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North is just asking for the right to be treated equally like every other public and private high school in Washington County. That is, to be able to construct a facility that will allow its athletes - which are participating in extracurricular activities in the educational process - to play in the shadow of the school they attend.

That idea seems to be enough to trigger vertigo. The response for such a notion has been dizzying.

The usual call about tax money and the lack of need for such a structure comes out of the woodwork. It's called wasteful, unneeded and excessive.

In reality, it is almost humorous.

First, most of the barking comes from the misconception of what a stadium is and what it means.

In the allergy-infested areas, the word "stadium" means a huge, multimillion dollar complex with a five-digit count of seats - much like the ones they have already funded twice for the major league teams that reside in Baltimore. (And it's really funny how so many looked the other way when the Ravens just happened to win the Super Bowl a couple of years ago.)

That conception of "stadium" has been carried like a germ back here to infest the area. But comparing Ravens Stadium or Camden Yards to a local baseball facility and a high school plot of land with seating around it is like comparing watermelons, apples and oranges.

It isn't the same. There is a difference in millions when they come in hundreds, tens and individual increments.

North's idea of a stadium isn't going to be an overbearing project. It's just a chance to call something home.

Those who have asked for the stadium haven't asked for one drop of milk from any cash cows. North backers have continuously said they will try to find ways to fund the project on their own without tax money. They just want a blessing of local government and the proper zoning to get the ball rolling.

If wasting money is an issue, what category would spending out of a travel budget to rent a bus to take your team across town to play a home game be called?

Or for that matter, how much could be saved by getting North its own facility? School Stadium is forced to host double the home games compared to other fields and needs much more care and upkeep to allow it to recover and remain healthy for schoolchildren to play on.

Financial wrangling aside, maybe a more disturbing thought might be what some of the allergy sufferers perceive as the role of athletics in schools.

A strong education is a rounded education. Teachers' pay and equipment are paramount in the process of educating children and is money that is well spent. But in the same vain, just because a lot of money is spent on the "book learning" part of education, it doesn't mean that every child is going to read and write.

Some of that depends on if the individual wants to read and write. Teachers can't force children to learn, just like stadium advocates can't force naysayers to agree on such projects.

Yet, an education is more than just grasping ideas. Ideas are nothing more than theories based in knowledge.

And when it comes to theories, two things rule. Theories are one way of interpreting a subject - no one is totally right or wrong. In order to make theories and information work, the user needs to have common sense and confidence.

Teaching that one and one equals two is fact, but it isn't ultimate. Two plus zero also equals two.

Activities like sports - although the mission has been distorted by the egos and drives of some over the years who have forgotten the lessons athletics offer - are an important part of education. Sports are different than band or student council, but teach the same principles of self-esteem, organization, leadership and confidence.

Sports is math (scores), geometry (angles), civics (leadership), psychology (mental balancing), sociology (interaction of cultures) and history (school traditions) all wrapped up in one package. Different theories for the same education.

The idea that stadiums and gyms - old or new - don't add to the growth of students is, well, almost uneducated.

Athletics have allowed many local students the chance to go on to school for academics. Every one of these student-athletes is required to keep educational minimums - grades - to keep the right to play. And many more have earned the right to continue their educations because they have been able to participate in sports on a home field or stadium.

Ask two of Hagerstown's younger police officers how much athletics helped them gain a career. Ask a local city councilman what athletics taught him along the way. And ask any number of local teachers and coaches who came back to the area on how their athletic experiences helped.

This all gets off the subject of whether North Hagerstown should have a home stadium. But that very structure is a symbol of the very community and loyalty that are byproducts of an educational system, no matter how world class it is considered.

The big picture may prove it a project that needs to be addressed.

And that's nothing to sneeze at.

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