Nolte, along with friends and RHS supporters, raised more than $200,000 in money and donations in the early 1990s to improve the track facilities at Reed and make the east Sparks school the premiere prep track venue in Nevada. Those efforts, along with the results of his highly successful Raiders teams, left Washoe County School District and Reed officials to name the east Sparks school’s complex the Dave Nolte Northern Nevada Regional Track and Field Complex.
So it’s understandable why Nolte is upset to set see the once-prestigious complex deteriorating. It was his crown jewel 20 years ago and his name is still on it.
“I am frustrated, but not so much for me; for all those people on that northern Nevada track committee,” Nolte said. “They were just ‘everyday Joes’ who helped get all that together and build the thing. Yes, it’s been very frustrating … You have two issues. One, why isn’t Reed taking care of what it has; and two, why isn’t the district replacing things it should be replacing?”
In the spring of 1992, a new all-weather latex track was installed at Reed thanks to the fundraising of Nolte’s group, the northern Nevada track committee. Additionally, the group raised funds to renovate the snack bar, build a new bathroom facility, move the visiting grandstands, add asphalt paving around the perimeter of the track and add shot put and discus areas. A chain-link fence around the outside of the track was the district’s lone expense for the project.
The completion of the track gave Reed the only latex track in northern Nevada at the time. There was little doubt the Rail City school boasted the best track facility in the North, if not the entire state.
Reed was rewarded, too. It hosted all but three Northern 4A Regional Championship meets from 1983-2005. It hosted state championship meets in 1997, 2000, 2002 and 2004, when that event rotated yearly between Las Vegas and Reno. And now it’s an afterthought
Presently, hundreds of cracks stretch through the track’s latex surface. Weeds and grass have overgrown running lanes for jumping events and the pole vault. Countless patches of dirt dot the infield surface and throwing areas. It’s a sad scene compared to the facility’s hey-day.
“None of the cracks need to be there, if the track had been maintained like it should have been,” Nolte said. “At Reed, there are weeds everywhere. The signs are outdated. The place looks like a truck stop. It’s embarrassing.
“As a former athletic administrator and a guy who ran all athletics briefly in Washoe County, I know the district has to deem it important. That’s what it comes down to.”
Nolte said when the money was raised 20-plus years ago to update the Reed complex and make it the leading regional venue, the school district’s Board of Trustees gave Reed leaders and his committee a commitment to maintain the RHS facilities.
That has not happened, and Nolte’s not the only one who remembers that commitment.
“I do remember the district kicked in a chain-link fence around the track, but everything else was fundraised from organizations, donations and grants,” said Dudley Cate, who served as Reed’s principal from 1982-1992. “Our committee raised that money. It’s been 20 years, but I do recall something like that, the school board making a commitment to continue to make sure the track is in good shape. That facility is school district property. The district has a responsibility to maintain its own property.”
Sandy Houston had three children attend Reed. She served as the committee’s treasurer and she remembers a district commitment as well.
“We took all the time and effort to get the money raised and I do remember a commitment that the district would maintain it. Now that’s about as much as I do remember, but it was a struggle just getting it done. Dave with all his heart took it full force and made it happen. I can imagine it needs some real major work now. Dave was the brains behind the whole thing and his name is on it. I can see why he’s frustrated.”
Reed’s complex still has a sign to greet visitors when they enter that says ‘Dave Nolte Northern Nevada Regional Track Facility,’ but it’s the regional facility in name only. Reed has not hosted a Northern 4A regional meet since 2005 or a state championship meet since 2004. The past three state track championship events that have been hosted in the North went to Damonte Ranch High School in south Reno.
“The track facility is one thing, but you have to ask what else does the facility do,” said longtime Reed assistant track coach Lynn Mentzer, who still serves as the director at nearly every major meet held in the Truckee Meadows. “Look at our abundance of parking here. Look at the additional features we have, like synchronized timing on our scoreboard and wireless capability.”
Nolte had similar sentiments.
“We still get people who all the time say this is the best laid out facility for track,” he said. “But we can’t bring in a regional or state meet. Still, Reed is the ideal site to host big meets if the track is repaired.”
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
•After the new latex track was installed in 1992, Reed became a hotbed for track and field events, hosting everything from middle school meets to charity walkathons and more.
Nolte and Mentzer said the latex surface has a shelf life of roughly seven years. The RHS track was resurfaced in 2000, but has not seen much improvement in the form of repairs, beyond various patch work, since.
According to Nolte, the WCSD was set to fund major repair work in the summer of 2009. However, depending on who you talk to, what work would be done, and if the money had truly been allocated, is unclear.
“In regards to the Reed track, there was never money allocated to that,” WCSD Chief Capital Projects Officer Mark Stanton said. He went on to say the district had a consultant look at the track, who decided the school could get another five years of life from the track without jeopardizing safety.
Joe Gabica, the district’s director of planning and design, has been around for the entire life of Reed’s latex track. He remembers the hard work of the RHS fundraising committee.
“Dave and his group did a tremendous amount of work to get that project done,” Gabica said. “I think there was a lack of communication between the group that originally got that done and the school district. At that time, there was no plan for what would need to be done when the track had to be resurfaced.”
Gabica went on to say that in 2009 the district was advised that a civil engineer should study the track and its foundation. This engineer, Gabica said, believed the track sat on an insufficient foundation and that large amounts of clay under the track absorb water and then expand, thus leading to the track pulling apart and cracking.
Gabica said resurfacing the current track at Reed would be a waste of money. Cracks would quickly appear again due to the poor foundation. He elaborated that for any track to be installed correctly at Reed, it would require ripping out the old track, conducting additional excavation, pouring a sufficient foundation and then building a new track. Any such project would require a dry site, meaning Reed could not water its football field. In turn, that grass would die and RHS would need a new football field surface, new sod or artificial turf.
That kind of project would would likely bring a price tag of more than $500,000.
“The Board (of Trustees) gives us money for capital renewal, things like roofs, boilers, chillers, things that keep kids warm, safe and dry,” Gabica said. “The last few years, there has been no money for paving. What that means is no money for the Reed track.
“It’s one of those things that in order to do it right would take a huge amount of dollars; so it just got tabled.”
MONEY AND PRIORITIES
•Reed has been the district’s poster child for multitasking. Two of the light stanchions on its football field double as cellphone towers. Last winter, 4,872 solar panels were installed on Reed’s east parking lot.
Cellphone providers paid for the installation of the cell towers and a grant paid for the solar panel installation, but both brought money back to the district. The district got a $7.5 million refund check for the solar panels, but that money did not stay at Reed. The local school does get roughly $14,000 back a year by providing space for the cell towers, but that money is invested back into technology needs at Reed.
Nolte asked why none of that money is kicked back to facility needs. The veteran coach also wondered if the district pursues grants for athletic improvements.
One local grant writer told the Sparks Tribune she had never seen a state or federal grant for the improvement of athletic facilities. With most grant money offered by government bodies, that leaves only private grant offerings. The district has just two full-time grant writers.
Nolte also said he’s had discussions with Reed assistant principal Kevin Taylor, who is in charge of athletics and grounds, about maintenance practices that could improve the track facility within the school’s basic field maintenance budget.
On a walk-through at Reed last week, Nolte showed where dirt from a project outside the track’s perimeter had been piled up on the track. He showed where the grass had been mowed and trimmings had been blown outward on to field event runways rather than inward onto the grass. Grass has overgrown many field event runways, narrowing the distance for an athlete to approach an event. All are poor maintenance practices, if not unsafe as well.
When contacted Monday, Taylor did not want to comment for the story.
Reed’s football/soccer field, which doubles as the track infield, and its baseball field are in poor shape as well. In addition, Reed does not have a second gym that can host athletic events, unlike many of the district’s other high schools. At some point, critics may ask if Reed is getting equal treatment.
“I don’t know if we’re not playing on a level playing field,” Reed Athletic Director Ron Coombs said. “When the school was built. I’m not really sure there was a big eye to the future. It’s boxed in on every side. There’s no place to even expand. The areas we have to utilize for practice fields are smaller than anyone.
“We’re limited in space and we’re getting up there in age. Reed will be in its 39th year. We’re not young anymore and with that comes maintenance issues … We need a lot of improvement. The track must be redone. The baseball and football fields need to be redone. We’re on effluent water. That doesn’t help. There’s been a lot of wear and tear on our facilities.”
Coombs went on.
“We’re limited in space and sometimes it feels like we’re fighting an uphill battle with the usage issue. Until we can expand our school or get artificial turf, it’s going to be an uphill battle. These projects mean huge dollar amounts. That’s just where we’re at.
“We can fundraise but that is a slow process and sometimes that’s tough because the kids have a four-year window … We’ve made strides. We’re going in the right direction. We’ll keep plugging away.”
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE
•Because of an astronomical price tag, there’s probably not much to look forward to in terms of Reed getting a new track surface any time soon. Gabica admitted as much.
“The (school district’s) Board of Trustees has limitations,” he said. “There are going to be a few lean years. If the Legislature does not approve a new capital funding mechanism, then I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
That’s a sad state for many local track enthusiasts, who still see Reed as a prime track destination. Donnie Nelson is an assistant director for the NIAA, the state’s governing body for high school sports. He’s among that group that believes the Reed track facility has real value. He added that he believes the NIAA would quickly return to hosting events there if the track surface were improved.
“If somebody were to take on a fundraising effort for that facility, I’d be among the first people to contribute and make a financial donation. I love that facility and would love to see it restored to the original championship facility in the state. I love the place. It’s great. We (the NIAA) would be back.”
Estela Gutierrez sits on the WCSD’s Board of Trustees and her district represents Reed High School. She hears a variety of concerns from her constituents, stressing she hears many about elementary schools but very few about high schools. She said no one has contacted her regarding the degradation of Reed’s track and athletic facilities or corresponding safety issues.
“Our operating budget versus facility needs and how we fund those is going to be a big challenge,” she said. “I have not heard any concerns from Reed. I have been to functions there, but not walked on the track … I will certainly look into this.
“As trustees we welcome concerns. It does help to get input from the public.”
Reed Principal Mary Vesco said she’d like to see many capital improvements made at her school but she also understands the budget crunch the district is mired in.
“We’d hope to get money for it, but money is tight,” Vesco said. “I think the district is looking at its money and weighing what is justified. I think it is spending what it has. I don’t think it’s holding on to it.
“I know in Dave’s time, the district did say Reed would be the regional track facility, but time goes on and things change. If you look at Damonte (the site of state track in 2008, 2010, 2012), it’s beautiful. Why wouldn’t you use that as the regional track facility? I think you just have to look at the changing times.”
That stance doesn’t sit well with Nolte. He openly wonders if it will take an athlete getting seriously hurt for the school district to make the Reed track a higher priority.
“Isn’t that sad?” he asked. “But that’s really what it comes down to. They are just letting it go. There is going to be a time when an athlete comes down in an area that has been patched and someone is going to get hurt.”