When the Reed Raiders take the field this year they do so under conditions that are less than ideal. Reed was the Northern Regional Champion last year but the field they play on ranks among the worst in our area. Reed High School athletic director Ron Coombs admits the conditions on the school's football and soccer field are far from ideal. The school is almost 40 years old. And facilities like this one are showing their age.
"The biggest concern is areas where the grass is struggling to come through," Coombs told News 4 during a tour of the facility.
That means players run, catch and tackle on bare spots like this where the grass is simply not growing due to poor drainage, our hot summer weather, and simply, use. Coombs says they shut the field down last may and started a comprehensive maintenance plan when they realized the situation was at a critical point.
"We have spent an enourmous amount of time and money to get his facility playable . To get it to a point where it is safe," he told us.
Coombs says the field is now safe to play on, but the conditions are not on par with other schools.
Damonte Ranch, the newest high school in the district has a first class football field and received extra money from the district to build it because it is designated as a regional play-off site. But because the field was built at the same time the school was built, the district can't tell us how much it spent on the field portion.
Mcqueen High School installed a new artificial turf field in 2006 at a cost of more than half a million dollars thanks in large part to an aggressive fundraising and booster program.
Joe Gabica oversees the planning and development of capital projects for the school district. We asked him if its fair that kids in newer areas have such better facilities than students at older schools.
"I don't know that its fair. Damonte was done for a specific purpose. Its a regional stadium . Mcqueen was fundraising. All of the other facilities are pretty close to the same thing," Gabika says.
But clearly not all schools are on an equal playing field when it comes to funding. We did a little more research and found Mcqueen actually received $300,000 in bond money from the school district to build its field.
The district says the money was originally set aside for a school expansion project that never materialized. The school board then decided that $300,000 could be used instead to help pay for the new football field at Mcqueen.
But News 4 has also learned bond money will no longer be available for any schools in the district because lower property values have cut the amount of tax revenue available to pay off those bonds.
That's a major source of revenue the district depends on for capital projects that will soon disappear when the current bonds expire in november.
"Its a huge hurdle and never in my time have i seen this. Its zero. After november we will have no additional revenue sources," said Elizabeth Wright, director of accountability for the school district..
Another challenge at Reed, when it comes to maintainence, there is no money set aside for specific schools. Instead it is simply divided up on a priority basis. And football fields often take low priority.
"if we have to make a decision to re-sod a field or put a new roof on a school, we have to make some tough decisions but it will be the roof," Gabika said.
On the bright side , major improvements have been made here at reed to the softball and baseball fields. Parent support and fundraising have helped make these projects happen and Ron Coombs says they have a clear goal in mind for their next project.
"To get this field in better condition than it is now," he says.
In the meantime, the Reed Raiders hope to continue their winning tradition. With the hope that someday the quality of their field will match the quality of their play.
The Reed High athletic staff is working on putting together a fundraising poker night at the grand sierra in the near future to help raise money for a new field. We'll let you know when they have a specific date set for the event.