Categorized | NEWS

Twenty years later South High still waits for better athletic facility

Posted on 25 April 2017 by calvin

Parents, students point to unsafe conditions at Barnard Field and question why the district hasn’t fixed the problems

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Minneapolis Public Schools Adult Basic Education (ABE) and Transition Plus (T+) are getting a new building along E. Lake St. while South High School students continue to wait for safe athletic facilities. And, some parents and students don’t think that’s right.

Parents United For South High (PUSH) and the school’s site council are pressing the school district to make good on promises it made in 1995 to update Barnard Field.

“For 20 years and eight superintendents, MPS has known that the athletic fields and practice space are undersized, unsafe and inequitable compared to other schools in the area,” stated site council co-chair Scott Schluter, who started the blog, mpsneedsaplan.weebly.com, to keep people informed.

The 26-year Ericsson resident sends one daughter to South High and watched another graduate from there in 2015.

His daughter Emma Schluter is captain of the soccer team and races on the track and field team.

“We are not asking for a grand new stadium,” said E. Schluter, who is one of 1,800 students at South High, the district’s largest high school. “What we want are facilities that address the needs of our student population, current and incoming. More importantly, facilities that meet regulations, are safe, and can compare to the other Minneapolis Public Schools. We, as students, want facilities that we are proud of; that we can proudly say: ‘Yeah, I go to South!’”

Parents and students are frustrated that the district’s plans for a $29 million, 87,000-square-foot educational building at E. Lake St. and 21st Ave. would block the ability of the South High to expand and to reposition its football field north/south. They say they were stunned in July 2016 when they discovered the district wasn’t planning to use the land it had acquired for South High.

Attendance South High School Fall 2016Illustration left (click on it to see it enlarged): South High students come from a large part of South Minneapolis, as shown by this graph, but the district’s communication has been with just one neighborhood, pointed out South High Site Council Co-Chair Scott Schulter. He would like to see other affected neighborhoods included in discussions that affect South High. (Graphic provided)

The 1995 plans for the field turned it to a more playable north/south direction, and practice space was added on the west side of the field.

“Why the district has to put any building that permanently blocks any improvement to the largest school population in Minneapolis and without input from the school’s administration, staff, students and the South High community is disappointing and wrong,” said Scott.

Unsafe playing fields
The main issue for players, according to E. Schluter, is safety.

“It does not seem right that it takes such a long time and such persistence for the district to do anything when the facilities are not safe,” stated E. Schluter. “Safety should be something that the district provides and maintains without the need for lots of attention to be drawn to it before they do something.

We want to be proud in our school, in our facilities, and be able to grow our sports and the sense of community it can build within both the school and the surrounding neighborhoods.”

It is difficult to play on the field in its current condition, pointed out E. Schluter. The width of the field is the biggest issue for her. “It is not a wide field, which changes the style of soccer that can be played,” she explained. “More significantly, the track, along with drains and concrete, sit directly off of the field—no more than a couple of feet from the lines. On the north side of the field, the long jump and pole vault runs even have concrete that sits inches from the field. Regulation is 10 feet for the closest thing from the field. These factors compromise the ability to play safely. Specifically, for soccer, we can’t slide tackle or make plays along the sidelines without worrying about coming in contact with some form of concrete.”

Occupy-Barnard-900x600Photo right: About 100 people stood in bone-chilling temperatures in January 2017 on South High’s Barnard Field to rally for fixes to the deteriorating field. According to Emma Schluter, the field isn’t safe for either soccer or track and field, the two sports she plays. (Photo submitted)

The field also has a very strong angle or arch to it, which at times make it impossible to see the ball on the other side of the field, E. Schluter added.

“In terms of the track, the conditions are horrendous,” said E. Schluter. “The track might as well be concrete, and in fact, in several spots, the thin layer covering the track is missing, so it is just concrete. As a result of this, our track is notorious for causing shin splints. This is often the reason why so many of our runners can’t finish out the season.”

Her father added, “We also need lighting for night games, a sound system for announcing, bleachers that are handicapped accessible and are not hand-me-downs from Roosevelt, and a turn-key press box like other schools have so it doesn’t take volunteers hours to set up a game.”

“By providing South with an updated field, track, scoreboard, lights, bleachers, and PA system that is on par with most other schools in the district and many other schools across the state, they would be giving our students and our community a sense of pride that is currently lacking,” said site council co-chair Steve Richter, who has lived in the Hale-Page-Diamond Lake neighborhood for 22 years. His youngest daughter is currently a junior at South High, and another graduated from there four years ago.

The hope is to replace the current six-lane track with one that has eight lanes and to use artificial turf.

“Because of limited practice space and playing fields, even though it may not be our first choice, it makes sense to replace the natural turf with and artificial turf that can be used by more teams, more hours of the day,” said Richter.

Grant awarded for part of field
In March, Minneapolis Public Schools was awarded a $250,000 grant from the Hennepin County Youth Sports (HCYS) Grant to develop an artificial turf athletic field and amenities at South High School.

At its Nov. 15, 2016, meeting, the school board agreed to match this grant if it was awarded, and now has $500,000 dedicated to the South High School field project.

The expected budget necessary for the entire project is $3.15 to $3.19 million.

MPS has committed to providing an additional $250,000 funding match, as other grants are sought and awarded.

According to a press release, MPS will be including Barnard Field updates in its 2018 Capital project proposal and hopes to move forward with the project in summer 2018.

Jay Pomeroy, a landscape architect with Anderson-Johnson Associates, has been contracted by MPS to develop plans for the facility and presented a few concepts to the site council’s Barnard Field planning committee in February.

“The plan so far is not adequate. That doesn’t mean that it can’t get there, but we have very little guaranteed so far,” remarked Richter. “We have drawings with no firm commitment that they fit our space and only about 15 percent of the money needed to complete the project.”

The most frustrating part for Richter is the uncertainty. “They say they will do something for us, and have even provided an architect to draw up plans, but that is where the commitment stops,” said Richter.

“Our fields have not been updated in over 20 years, and there is still the possibility that the district will put it off again.”

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