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Commentary: Reed’s athletic facilities need better maintenance
by Dan Eckles
Jul 30, 2012 | 8680 views | 0 0 comments | 57 57 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Hundreds of cracks stretch across the latex surface of the track at Reed High School. Additionally, weeds and uneven dirt cover the track infield, which doubles as the home venue for the Raiders’ football and soccer teams. Critics want the safety hazards at the east Sparks school brought to light.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Hundreds of cracks stretch across the latex surface of the track at Reed High School. Additionally, weeds and uneven dirt cover the track infield, which doubles as the home venue for the Raiders’ football and soccer teams. Critics want the safety hazards at the east Sparks school brought to light.
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Reed High School’s athletic facilities have fallen on hard times. That’s not debatable. However, there is plenty of debate about who is to blame and how the problems should be corrected.

Earlier this month, I took a tour of Reed’s track/soccer/football complex with former Raiders track & field coach Dave Nolte, who also served as the school’s athletic director a decade ago. I never knew the state of disarray the RHS track had become. There is more crack exposed on that latex surface than a bent-over plumber whose jeans need to meet a belt.

Nolte is extremely frustrated with the state of the facility and he’s got a right to be. The facility is named after him.

The track was installed in 1992 and resurfaced in 2000. The latex rubber has a shelf life of roughly eight years. Reed’s track surface is going on 12 years and it’s not going strong. Nolte’s longtime assistant coach and current Reed teacher Lynn Mentzer, who serves as meet director for nearly every major track & field event in the Truckee Meadows, has shared correspondence with me between he and the school district going as far back as 2005, talking about needed repairs at Reed.

Those concerns have fallen on deaf ears. One school district bean counter told me a consultant in 2009 deemed the Reed track to have five more years of life with the right patchwork.

I’m not sure if the track has deteriorated faster than than the consultant envisioned after evaluating it three years ago, but if the Reed track has two more years of quality life left then so does a leper with a bad case of the shakes.

Nolte said there are two issues that have led to Reed’s sad state of athletic venues. The first is Reed leaders have not done enough to take care of what they have and the second is the school district has not done enough to help with proper, timely maintenance.

After doing some homework on the issue I wholeheartedly agree. Mentzer told me earlier this summer Reed officials allowed construction crews to pile up dirt on the track while working on a project adjacent to the running surface.

“I spent about three hours Friday (June 22) before the city’s Hershey’s meet getting the dirt off the track,” said Mentzer, who seems just as frustrated as Nolte after watching the complex deteriorate into an eyesore. “The black latex surface is fine if it is kept up, but eventually you can’t patch things any longer … I’ve written multiple letters in the past. We are beyond minor patching.”

That was awfully nice of Mentzer to shovel dirt off the Reed track. It certainly wasn’t his responsibility. Organizers of the city’s youth Hershey’s track meet would have had to fill out a facility use request form at Reed and had it approved before hosting the event. They may even have had to pay a hosting fee to Reed.

It would have been pretty embarrassing had all those youth tracksters and their families come out to Reed six weeks ago for a planned event only to find dirt greeting them near the 100-meter starting line.

Mentzer saved the school that embarrassment, but maybe he shouldn’t have. Maybe more outrage would have come if he had left the dirt for all to see. It’s not only irresponsible to leave dirt on the track with an event scheduled, but it’s also a poor track maintenance practice. Considering the state of the Reed track, it needs all the proper maintenance practices it can get.

The track infield, which doubles as the school’s football and soccer field, has more weeds growing than actual grass and in many spots there is just bare dirt. That’s not very promising considering it is less than a month away from getting beaten up by a lot of moving feet.

Watch out this fall. You’ll see a a relatively high number of injuries by athletes due to poor playing conditions. And I’m not the only one with those fears.

“This just seems like everything else run by government,” Reed girls soccer coach Jason Saville said. “Action is always reactive instead of proactive. ‘We’ll act when something bad happens,’ whether that be a football player or soccer player who steps in a hole in the infield and tears an ACL that keeps them out for a season. Our school can only do so much. The district could have a serious lawsuit on its hands if it does not maintain its facilities.”

One of the reasons Reed’s athletic facilities are ravaged is because of overuse. The RHS campus is one of the smallest in the district. There is less usable field space for football teams to practice running routes, for baseball teams to practice tracking down fly balls and for soccer teams to run down and score off crossing passes.

Raiders gridiron skipper Ernie Howren has built a football powerhouse at Reed, winning Northern 4A crowns in two of the last three seasons. He knows his game and practice fields are far from ship-shape, but he is doing his best not to be too critical of their upkeep.

“When it comes to facilities, and you’re talking about a school like Reed, we’re getting up there in age,” Howren said. “Facilities are going to be stretched thin. They’re going to get used and abused over the years.

“There’s no doubt our facilities get more than their fair share of use. Look at the amount of practice space we have compared to other schools in the district. We may have the smallest. Anything with turf gets used more and beat up more … Our football team practices on the baseball outfield because of a lack of space.”

Critics would say football is getting preferential treatment by beating up the baseball field during the baseball offseason, but the Raiders football team needs somewhere to go. It can’t practice in the school’s oversized parking lot.

I spoke with WCSD Board Trustee Estela Gutierrez two weeks ago. She told me she had never heard of concerns from Reed High officials nor had she ever walked around the track and seen the football field up close. That should have happened long ago. It should have happened long ago because someone at Reed called Gutierrez, the school’s board representative, and asked her to check out the woes first hand.

A few critics have commented to us here at the Tribune that Reed principal Mary Vesco has not put a high enough priority on maintaining Reed’s athletic facilities, that she needs to have a louder voice in calling for district support.

That may or may not be true. I don’t know where her priorities lie. I do know that I spoke to Vesco two weeks ago. I heard her concerns that the district is in a budget crunch and it’s hard to expect, let alone ask, for more help. I get that. But I also know you don’t get what you want or need by merely hoping for more help.

Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune’s sports editor. He can be reached via email at: deckles@dailysparkstribune.com
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