Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mitchell Stadium

What happens when you combine turf-war politics with high school football? Ungooditude.

Dig this article by Melissa Cuppett in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

BLUEFIELD, Va. — Tazewell County School Board members were available to talk with community members Monday evening at a public meeting about Project VISTA plans.

In late March, board officials shared a proposal featuring Project VISTA (Vital Improvements for Schools in Tazewell County), a 25-year plan that addresses school improvements deemed necessary by the board’s instructional facilities improvement committee.

The plan recommends, among other changes, the construction of a new Graham High School and the consolidation of Dudley Primary, Graham Intermediate and Springville Elementary into a newly built elementary school.

So far, the public response has been positive, if not abundant, said Steve Davis, Tazewell County School Board chairman, Monday.

“I think it’s been very positive,” Davis said, noting that a lot of people wanted more information about the proposal. “I think there has been a lot of interest.”

Davis said that while public meetings do not bring a “full house,” the people who do come take what they learn back to others, and word spreads. He also speculated that one reason some people do not attend public meetings is that “people are trusting their elected leaders,” the members of the school board and Board of Supervisors, to make good choices.

The facilities committee says GHS has serious structural and mechanical problems that make it more feasible to build a new school rather than attempt to renovate the 50-year-old building. Under Project VISTA, the current GHS would be demolished, providing room for athletic and parking venues. A new high school would be built adjacent to the current school.

The new elementary school would be built adjacent to Graham Middle School, which would be renovated to address air quality, security and technology services.

School board and facilities committee member Cookie Johnson said people have been positive and see the need for change.

“The plan is so well thought-out and needed,” she said. “I really think it’s the time to do this.”

Still, Johnson acknowledged that some issues are likely to come up as the plan moves forward.“

I think the cost is going to be a concern,” she said.

“I’m concerned about what it will do with our taxes,” Bluefield, Va., resident Betty Bourne said.

Bourne lives across the street from Graham High School, and said her primary issue with the new plan is the football field.

She said she is “definitely against” the proposal of a field being built. She noted that traffic problems already arise during smaller athletic events at the school, with vehicles parked down the side of Valleydale Street.

“I think the traffic, especially if they play high school games,” will be a problem, she said. Bourne considers the current agreement to play at Mitchell Stadium “wonderful,” with the field a great place to play games. She said she’s seen too often the traffic, trash and other problems that come with football games.

The school board’s Johnson also said that “change is hard. I think any time we change or especially close a building it’s difficult for some people, but I think we’ve got to look forward and not back.”

Monday’s meeting was the third of four public meetings addressing changes proposed in Project VISTA. The final meeting is scheduled Wednesday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Richlands High School.Project VISTA recommends that a new RHS be constructed and the current school renovated. Richlands Middle School students would move into the current RHS building.

Elementary school suggestions include either the consolidation of all three current schools — Raven, Cedar Bluff and Richlands — into one new school building, or the renovation and extension of Richlands and Cedar Bluff. Raven Elementary would be consolidated into Richlands Elementary.

Okay. I'm not even going to bring up the whole debacle that went down in the early 1990s, you know, the one where Bluefielders were promised a new Graham High and instead got new windows? Er, I guess I did bring it up. Sorry.

Do we need a new high school? Yes. We've needed one for years. We need one desperately. Graham has been sinking underneath the earth for years. Its library is antiquainted and its lab facilities are antediluvian (even if they are better than half of those in the region). Pay the green and get the stuff going.

Moving on, the debate as to whether or not Bluefield, Virginia should have its own football field, well, its absurd. That's right. Absurd. Mitchell Stadium is one of the best places to see a game in the entire country and Bluefielders cannot begin to hope that a new stadium for the sole use of tiny (and it is tiny, regardless of whether we want to admit it or not) will remotely meet the facilities or viewing experience available at Mitchell. What this is really about is Virginians wanting control over their own stadium, not about where can Virginians have the best experience for their buck.

Not to mention the EIGHTY YEARS of Bluefield v. Bluefield competition in the stadium. Sure, lets throw that away for an aluminum and cider block abomination. Cause if you get a new stadium, that's what you're going to get.

I guess the $1 million Bluefield, WV invested in renovating the current stadium simply isn't enough to impress Bluefield, Virginians that the structure is worth our cooperative efforts to preserve it.

This is, frankly, a great example of how governments, refusing to cooperate despite their mutual interests (e.g. Bluefield and Princeton, Bluefield and Tazewell, and of course Pocahontas and Bluefield) have, in the interests of maintaining their own tiny sliver of power, deprived themselves of the best possible experience. But hey, its better to rule in an aluminum, mass-produced piece of crap than a piece of architecture from my Bluefield's golden age, a Bluefield that transcends state lines.

Because chickory doesn't care if your yard is in West Virginia or Virginia.


Steven said...

Interesting read, Eric. Thanks for sharing.

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