Archive for Thursday, June 22, 2006

Opinion: BLHS facilities falling behind

June 22, 2006

Lew Kasselman, the head football coach at Bonner Springs High School, has a unique marketing tool for this summer's youth football camp. Kasselman is calling this year's camp, "First on the Turf," to attract kids with the prospect of being the first to play football on the new artificial turf at BSHS.

The turf, which is sweeping the globe as the best in artificial playing surfaces, is made of synthetic grass like the old Astroturf, but, unlike that surface, is softened with tiny bits of rubber from ground-up tires. The new turf is supposed to be much better on athletes' bodies than Astroturf, and much easier to maintain than real grass. Thus, although the new surface cost BSHS about $644,000, it will save money in the long term because it will be much cheaper to maintain from year to year.

The new turf was just one in a slew of improvements that BSHS made to its athletic fields last year, improvements that have made some in Basehor green with envy.

Lately it's been quite common at Bobcats games to hear one person lean over to another and say, in a soft tone, "Have you been over to Bonner and seen the new fields yet?"

And it's not uncommon to hear the other person say, "Yeah, now that's the kind of thing we need in Basehor."

OK, there's no reason that BLHS couldn't make the same, or even better renovations. But it's going to take money. The upgrades at Bonner were part of an $18 million dollar bond issue. A hefty price tag, yes, but it's really the only way that the locals could keep up with the district's educational demands. The state doesn't seem eager to help.

There seems to be little doubt that Basehor needs more money for academic things, such as classrooms and teachers. But does it really need a bond issue that includes upgrades to the athletic facilities? Well no, not in the strictest sense of the word. The high school could certainly get by for years on the facilities it has now. But there would certainly be advantages to remodeling.

First of all, installing turf at BLHS, while expensive up front, would ultimately save the school money on maintenance. The new field would also drain better and possibly prevent some injuries. There's other renovations that I'd like to see for purely selfish reasons, like a climate-controlled press box, and maybe some larger, more modern bathrooms.

But more important than the football field is addressing the high school's baseball and softball facilities. Now don't get me wrong, Field of Dreams is an awesome venue for youth sports; a lot of parents in other districts can only dream of having so many fields so close to home. But the place just isn't up to par for high school baseball and softball. First of all, it's woefully short on seating. Secondly, it's a huge open space with no windbreaks, so almost every game is played in a near-cyclone. This not only makes every pop fly an unnecessary adventure, it also mercilessly kicks up dust into the eyes of everyone who's trying to play or watch the game. Speaking of dust, why not get at least one diamond with a grass infield? Not only does it look a lot better, it also eliminates the nasty hops that come when ground balls hit a divot or rock in the infield. Those are an infielder's nightmare, a broken nose waiting to happen.

So, maybe Bonner passing its bond issue is what it will take for Basehor to finally pass one of its own. Right now the Bobcats have fallen behind the Braves, and I know how much this town hates when that happens.

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