(08/22/2002)

Youth league football players practice on Wayne Underwood Field

Petitions opposing the denial of using the new Calhoun Middle/High School football field by youth league football players, will be presented to the Calhoun County Board of Education prior to their meeting on September 3, according to football parent Patti Laughlin.

The decision has raised the hackles of dozens of sports families.

Laughlin and other sports parents are angry over the denial, and dozens have written e-mail and letters to The Herald, some of which have been printed.

The football league and other groups continue to use old Wayne Underwood Field, and are attempting to make it more useable. The field was recently given to the Calhoun Commission for a recreational area.

The old bleachers have been moved to the Mt. Zion campus, but water and electric have been maintained, and dozens of volunteers are helping with minor improvements to the field. Seating for games is a big issue with two sets of "old rickety bleachers" left, which some of the parents say are unsafe.

Parents are upset the contents of the snack bar were removed "including the sinks." "This was how we made money to keep these teams going," said football parent Kelley Whytsell.

Principal Roger Propst and Superintendent Ron Blankenship told the Board of Education the new field was too fragile for extensive use, the grass not being well-rooted.

Blankenship indicated the decision was not permanent, but would apply to youth league football this year. He applauded the actions of the parents, but asked them to consider the problem.

The youth league had sought to use the new field at least four times for games, players ages 7-12. One game is a championship final scheduled on October 27, which involves seven teams from the I-77 League.

Whytsell said parents would be present as a delegation at the next school board meeting. "The petitions are filled up," she said. "These games draw a big crowd. We are looking for community support of this issue."

She said a recent fund drive had raised $800 to help with Wayne Underwood Field, including some painting, and Al-Fab from Ritchie County has agreed to build new steps at the press box from the street down to the field. "The VFW has donated an American flag." Whytsell said she was aware of grass problems at the new field, "but the decision is wrong. Most of these kids are Middle School students." The grass will grow back and develop, said former Calhoun resident Bertha Jean Shock Cromley, "but students could be unable to recapture this time in their lives."

Up and coming cheerleaders practice

School officials have been empathic over the problem, but have asked parents to consider the hundreds of volunteer hours it has taken to ready the new field, which has been damaged by vandals and is currently distressed by lack of rain. Laughlin said she expects a large delegation to appear at the September board meeting.


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