By Steve Hanf, PW adviser
Brad Fisher was upbeat following Tuesday’s information session on the Reynolds High School stadium debate
“It feels like it’s going to be an 8-1 vote for the stadium,” the Demons’ athletic director said. “It’s up in the air as to which spot they’ll pick, but a week from tonight we will have a stadium to start fundraising for. I feel confident.”
Members of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education asked questions and gained insights into the proposed stadium plan. Following the session, Board members said they plan to vote on the proposal at their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 6 p.m.
Reynolds Principal Pat Olsen made a presentation to the Board members that included a startling statistic: Demon student-athletes drive 13,000 miles a year – just to attend practice.
The reason? Winston’s oldest high school has no on-campus stadium. Football and lacrosse games are played at Deaton-Thompson Stadium, which Reynolds shares with Parkland High School. Field hockey and soccer play at sites such as Bolton Elementary and the Children’s Home.
Members of the Reynolds community began exploring options for an on-campus stadium three years ago, Fisher said, and formed a Home Field Advantage campaign this year with the goal of raising support and private funding to build a stadium between Wiley Middle School and RJR’s Bryson Gymnasium. Opponents of the plan – organized as the Save Hanes Park movement – argue that a multi-use stadium would add noise and congestion to the area.
Darrell Walker, assistant superintendent for operations, said at Tuesday’s meeting that 13 locations were considered for a Reynolds stadium, but the only legitimate options were RJR and Wiley.
Four plans were presented to the Board, three of which were to build between Wiley and Bryson off Northwest Boulevard: Option A includes tearing down the Wiley gym and RJR auxiliary gym to make room for the stadium and building one combination gym in their place. At $9 million, that option is the most expensive.
Option B leaves Wiley’s aging gym in place and tears down the RJR auxiliary gym at a cost of $6 million, but that would make the new stadium a tight squeeze. Option C is to tear down the Wiley gym and leave the RJR auxiliary gym in place, at a cost of $7 million. Although that would make more room for the stadium, it would limit Wiley’s ability to expand in the future.
Option D, also priced at $7 million, involves putting the new stadium in front of Reynolds Auditorium. That move would lessen the disruption to Wiley and the neighborhood, but new parking would have to be built and officials were concerned with the amount of grading work needed prior to a stadium being built.
The standing-room-only crowd at the meeting room heard Board members – eight of the nine were present, with Vic Johnson out of town – ask several questions of Walker. In turn, the assistant superintendent simply asked that the board “do what is best for the school and the community,” Fisher said. “We knew he was going to present the viable offers and try to narrow it down to them.”
Board member Buddy Collins proposed the elimination of options A and D before asking about other options. In the end, options B1 and C1 were added.
Walker proposed that Option B1 could include a stadium with fewer seats – 2,200 instead of the proposed 3,000 – with an extra practice area on Reynolda Road across from the Children’s Home developed as part of the reduced costs. Fisher said this flat, grassy area between Buena Vista Road and Northwest Boulevard is 140 feet wide and could handle practices for many sports. No new gym would be built, although one could be financed with a school bond in the coming years.
Option C1 would table the decision of which gym to tear down while allowing Reynolds officials to proceed with the stadium fundraising campaign: “We can always decide which gyms come down and which gyms we build after the money starts coming in,” Fisher said.
A key point in the stadium debate is that Reynolds boosters feel confident they can raise some $6 million to pay for the entire project without any school system funds. Because Option C is more expensive, Fisher said he felt most Board members were leaning toward Option B.
“But with Buddy wanting a C1, for us to make up something new…” Fisher began. “From a Reynolds perspective, I think Plan C is best. Leave up the girls gym, build Wiley a new gym up on Northwest Boulevard. It doesn’t limit us in anything we do, and at the same time it does give Wiley a new gym. I think that’s really the best for everybody.”
Tuesday’s meeting adjourned with Collins asking that options B, C, B1 and C1 be considered at next Tuesday’s vote. The meeting will take place at the WSFCS Education Building. It is unknown if the Board will hear public comments, which generally come at the end of meetings after business has been decided.
“We’ve waited three years, so we can wait another seven days,” Fisher said.
Editor’s note: Adviser Steve Hanf is a former professional journalist and current freelance sportswriter. Although the goal of Pine Whispers is to be the student-run newspaper of RJR, this story was deemed important enough to be addressed regardless of the fact that staff writers are away on Thanksgiving break!