To the Editor:
The accusation made on the editorial page of the Grosse Pointe News Nov. 18 issue, "Middle school football," that Mr. Brennan is not representing the Grosse Pointe School Board in questioning the proposed middle school football program is unfair.
I don't know Mr. Brennan at all, but I think he is asking the right questions. Before adding a middle school football program, the costs and the effect on community youth sports programs should be evaluated. Also, field availability and the effect on other high school sports should be evaluated.
My initial reaction is that adding a new program such as middle school football will crowd out other sports at the high school and youth levels.
At both high schools, but at South in particular, there is a severe shortage of field space. For many high school teams at North and South, middle school and elementary school fields are used for practices and games. At South, sports such as field hockey, boys and girls soccer, and boys and girls lacrosse have no on-campus place to practice or play games except the stadium field.
The stadium fields and all of the public school fields are a finite and precious resource. A very important issue that is unresolved is how should the use of the stadium and other public school fields be allocated?
Should high school teams be given first priority for practices and games on the stadium fields and other public school fields?
What priority should be given to middle school sports, even for the use of the middle school fields?
Should football have a higher priority than other sports?
Do we have the field space to add new middle school sports such as football, soccer, field hockey and lacrosse?
What priority should be given to CYO sports, Red Barons and other community youth sports programs? Sorting out these priorities is tricky business.
High school field hockey and boys soccer also occur during the fall and these teams (junior varsity and varsity for field hockey, and freshman, junior varsity and varsity for soccer) currently use the stadium fields for some practices and games.
Will the high school field hockey and boys soccer teams be bumped from using the stadium fields for practices and games in favor of middle school football practices and games? The committee proposing the middle school football program has not provided enough information to answer this question.
If a middle school football program is added, where will the new middle school teams practice? High school field hockey teams currently use the Pierce field in the fall.
Can our grass fields stand the added wear and tear of a middle school football program? What would be the additional maintenance cost to keep the grass fields in good repair?
High school lacrosse teams (both boys and girls) use the fields at Pierce, Brownell and Parcells in the spring. In addition, the middle school fields are heavily used for youth sports programs (baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey) in both the spring and fall. The Brownell field currently is in terrible shape and scheduled to be closed for renovation.
What about the lights question at South? We recently made an agreement with the Farms Council to increase the number of night games allowed so we can have nighttime high school field hockey, soccer and lacrosse games.
Does adding middle school football games at the stadium field at South cause us to go back and request more night games from the Farms Council? Or does it cause us to eliminate the use of the stadium field for high school field hockey, soccer and lacrosse games?
The school board and administration should get answers to the above questions and move deliberately.
I encourage the school board to work with the numerous community youth sports groups as well as the athletic directors, the middle school athletic coordinators and principals in developing a comprehensive plan for using the fields.
A review of the facilities currently being used for high school sports teams, preparation of a schedule showing what additional capacity (if any) is available, and discussions on the setting of priorities should be undertaken prior to deciding to add another program.
Grosse Pointe Park
Grosse Pointe Park
November 23, 2004