Comprehensive study outlines how far behind most district outdoor athletic and activity facilities are
Walla Walla High School Athletic Director Chris Ferenz, several coaches and parent representatives unveiled a comprehensive report three years in the making to school board members Tuesday night detailing significant inadequacies of most of the district’s outdoor athletic and activity facilities. Since 2019, WWPS coaches and staff have been meeting regularly to review current school amenities, research league and regional facilities, and prioritize improvements necessary for Walla Walla students. A comprehensive analysis of facility comparisons and research has been performed of all district schools in the Mid-Columbia Conference. The study finds most of Walla Walla Public Schools’ exterior athletic components are in need of substantial renovations or improvements in order to maintain safe and adequate facilities.
The report noted Walla Walla High School is the only school in the Mid-Columbia Conference without a multi-sport, turfed stadium. Despite multiple, costly maintenance resurfacing projects, Garrison Middle School and Walla Walla High School tennis courts are crumbling away. Grass soccer fields can’t hold up to the hundreds of athletes now participating and softball and baseball facilities do not have lights causing Walla Walla students to miss a combined 100 days of school during the spring alone.
“Over the last two decades, through community donations and district maintenance funds, we have tried our best to make improvements to our sixty-year-old courts and ballfields,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “Despite the generosity from many and our school board, we have fallen significantly behind every other school in our league, and are continuing to fall even further behind.”
The current state of district outdoor athletic and activities facilities has been years in the making. The last time any bond or levy dollars were used for outside athletic improvements on any campus was when Walla Walla High School was originally constructed over 60 years ago. Rather than asking for voter-approved bonds or levies to improve outdoor athletic facilities, WWPS has leveraged community donations, Booster Club support and basic education maintenance dollars to try and keep up with extra-curricular facility improvements. Superintendent Smith says that improvement like Murr Park, constructed over 20 years ago, and the high school track, now eight years old, were examples of incredible community support. However, remaining outdoor fields, courts and amenities are in need of significant capital improvements to match todays programming needs.
“Ever other school in the MCC boasts state-of-art outdoor athletic and activities facilities for their student athletes,” said Superintendent Smith. “As promised, our highly successful 2018 bond program focused on taking care of classrooms, science labs, performing arts, fine arts, and other indoor critical facility needs across the district. This is what our voters told us to focus on and that is exactly what we did. However, that does not mean the need to address outdoor amenities went away.”
Comprehensive Study Findings of Current WWPS Outdoor Facilities:
• Walla Walla High School is the only school in the league without a multi-sport, turfed stadium where football, soccer, track, marching band, PE and other community use can practice and perform. The district pays $100,000 per year to access Borleske for 4-5 evening football games. Visiting teams dress down on the bus or in batting cages (the locker rooms were condemned over 40 years ago), and baseball improvements to the stadium over the years have made it even more problematic for football players and spectators.
• Walla Walla High School’s 60+ year old tennis courts are on the verge of being unplayable as the substructure has completely failed. Despite the board investing nearly $100K in a new topcoat surface on the high school courts three years ago, large cracks as wide as a tennis ball in some areas have already returned across all five courts. Garrison Middle School tennis courts, also a half-century old, are in a similar state.
• Walla Walla High School’s soccer program is the only one in the Mid-Columbia Conference that doesn't have access to a lighted, turf field. Most MCC schools maintain two, lighted soccer complexes for their programs. Without turf and access to a lighted complex, parents are forced to choose which of their children to watch as junior varsity and varsity are forced to play at the same times, and fields quickly deteriorate due to overuse.
• Walla Walla High School is the only school that does not have lighted baseball and softball fields, which would allow the school to start its games in the after school afternoon and end in the early evening. As a result, Walla Walla students miss hundreds more class hours than their league counterparts.
• Pioneer Middle School is the only middle school in the entire league still running on a cinder track. All 15 middle schools in Tri Cities boast all weather tracks.
• Without access to artificial turf fields, WIAA rules will require home playoff games in sports such as soccer and football be played in the tri-cities rather than on our home site.
• Walla Walla High School’s JROTC program desperately needs a Raider Obstacle Course so students can compete with other schools in this important event.
• Porta-pottys often double as changing rooms as outdoor facilities and lockers do not exist on any site.
A link to the full presentation can be found HERE
• Develop an Outdoor Athletic and Activity Facility Community Advisory Committee consisting of parents, community members and stakeholders
• Review, research and prioritize needs
• Identity costs to make improvements
• Investigate and propose funding options
• Provide committee progress update to the district in April with a final recommendation in May
“We have a lot of work ahead of us and are in the process of developing an independent Outdoor Athletic and Activity Community Advisory Committee,” said Superintendent Smith. “Our focus will be to develop pragmatic improvement solutions that attempt to deliver equitable and comparable outdoor athletic and activity facilities with similar-sized schools to maximize student access, safety, engagement and pride.”