To build or not to build?
The proposed football stadium for R.J. Reynolds High School adjacent to Hanes Park has sparked a debate that seemingly has everyone in the community arguing the pros and cons of that very question. A group of boosters have begun soliciting private dollars to construct a 4,500-seat stadium between Reynolds’ Herman Bryson Gymnasium and Wiley Middle School. The proposed facility would include a combined fieldhouse and gymnasium that would replace Wiley’s aging gym. Supporters of the project, known as the Home Field Advantage, say the projected cost of the stadium and fieldhouse would be around $6.5 million.
Home Field Advantage leaders say it is high time for Reynolds to have a field for its student athletes, not just football players, to call home. The school, which opened in 1923, is one of only a few in the school system that do not have their own stadium. The school’s football team currently plays at Deaton-Thompson Stadium on Clemmonsville Road.
“I just think it’s part of the whole high school experience that everyone should be able to enjoy,” said Kathryn Spanos, one of the spokespersons for Home Field Advantage. “…To me, it’s going to make the school stronger, and stronger schools make stronger communities.”
Spanos, a homemaker and the wife of a Reynolds alumnus, believes the construction of a stadium in the grassy area that is currently home to the gym and several trailers would complement the historic structures nearby. “We love this park as much as anyone else. We’re wanting to enhance it,” she stated. “To me, it (the stadium rendering) looks beautiful versus what we’re looking at.”
Support from both the School Board and City Council also stand in the proposed project’s way. City Council Member Denise DD Adams, whose North Ward is close to city-owned Hanes Park, said she has some reservations about the proposed project because of its proximity to the park. “I think we need to protect any green areas that we can that are in the inner city of Winston-Salem,” she said. “…It will change the landscape tremendously up there.”
John Coyne, who lives near the proposed stadium site, says Home Field Advantage has made little effort to communicate with residents in the area surrounding the proposed stadium, or consult with them about its potential impact on their lives. He and his wife Elizabeth joined forces with others to form a group known as Save Hanes Park. The group began circulating a petition last month, stating that the construction would “cause harm to Hanes Park, to surrounding neighborhoods, and to emergency vehicle routes,” among other concerns. The petition now has over 2,000 signatures.
“I just feel that the process needs to change. That’s what we’re trying to do,” said Coyne, a professor at UNC School of the Arts. “Nobody is trying to shut anything down. We just want a process that lets us participate in it. We are some of the stakeholders in this.” Although the facility would be constructed on land that is already owned by the school system, Coyne says supporters of the Save Hanes Park effort believe the stadium’s presence would disrupt the myriad activities that currently take place at the park, and aggravate an already congested traffic area.
“I think it’s just not the right site …It’s a big project. – 4,500 seats – obviously, that has a huge impact on the neighborhood, the parking and the roads,” said the father of two. “This park is so successful because it brings such a diverse group of people to use it … the fear is that when these events happen at the stadium, it’ll drive other people out of the park, and that would really be a loss for this park.”
Though the construction of the stadium would be funded by private donations, the maintenance and operating costs would be the responsibility of the school system, and Save Hanes Park supporters have questioned the validity of creating those additional costs.
Board of Education Member John Davenport said those who don’t care for the project have been vocal in their opposition of it.
“I have gotten numerous emails from people that are opposed to the project,” he related. “I have not gotten any emails from people that support it.”
Davenport added that Home Field Advantage has some significant hurdles to clear before the project could become a reality.
“Essentially, there’s no money available to do the project either on our side or their side,” he stated. “Unless there’s money available, there’s not even a discussion around it, but even if there was money, there would have to be a thorough public process to … ensure that this project could be built without causing the harm that these people are concerned about.”
Spanos says Home Field Advantage would like to have greater community involvement in the project, but the group maintains that the students at Reynolds should be privy to the same amenities that other schools already enjoy. She added that she is hopeful the two groups can find common ground.
“We’d like to see if we could come to a happy existence with our community and with our school,” she remarked. “It was never our intent to be divisive in any way.”
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