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School Board, commissioners mull options to fix HHS stadium, track

Coaches and scouts sometimes say that a gifted running back runs downhill.

At Hendersonville High School’s Dietz Field, all running backs run downhill literally — then uphill when the quarter changes. So do the soccer players racing toward the goal and the quarter-milers on the track team. The football field and track are on a slope.
That fact is among the shortcomings that have come to light as the Henderson County School Board and Board of Commissioners tackle the last stage of the Hendersonville High School construction. Although the football stadium is not officially a part of the $60 million construction and renovation project that will produce a sparkling new facility13 months from now, the work has always been part of the plans the School Board and county commissioners have endorsed.
Hendersonville High School’s football field is the last of the four public high schools to get new artificial turf. Commissioners committed to that several years ago before the school construction began. The question now is the magnitude of the changes.
The problems start below ground and reach the top of the visitors’ side bleachers, which are in poor condition and overhang the Church Street sidewalk. From the north end to the south end there is a four-foot gain in elevation.
“In order to correct that situation, a great deal of grading would be required,” PFA architect Amy Dowty told the Joint School Facilities Committee, made up of commissioners Michael Edney and David Hill and School Board chair Blair Craven and board member Jay Egolf.

The joint committee after discussing the options for more than an hour and a half on Tuesday failed to reach an agreement on which one to support. on County Manager John Mitchell's recommendation, the architects, engineers and HHS project manager for Vannoy Construction will present the options again on Monday night.
Among them:
• A stormwater pipe and a sewer line that run under the field need to be replaced.
• The home bleachers are too close to the outside lane of the track.
• The field needs to be shifted south because the north end zone borders the track, creating a safety issue. That also requires realigning the stadium lights so they shine on the field.
• Home and visitor rest rooms are inadequate and not handicapped accessible.
• There is no handicapped seating in the visitor stands.
The architectural firm for the HHS project, PFA architects, presented a slide show of options for fixing the problems during a School Board workshop last week. They range from a bare bones Option A for $2.2 million — new rubberized track, repositioning the field, replacing stormwater line, adjusting stadium lights — to a comprehensive $5.2 million option D — all of option A plus flattening the grade, reworking home bleachers and replacing visitor bleachers, home and visitor concession stands and bathrooms. Only option D fixes the slope.
“We have seen it and we know what needs to be done but also we understand dollars and cents,” School Board chair Blair Craven said in an interview last week before the joint committee reviewed the options. “We need to make the field flat. We don’t want to cheap out at the end, although we don’t need the Cadillac version.”
County engineer Marcus Jones said the county spent a total of $2,935,000 in 2017 to replace grass fields with artificial turf and rubberize tracks at East, West and North Henderson high schools.
The Hendersonville High School Bearcats have logged decades of success in varsity football, soccer and track on a field that no one knew had a 2 percent uphill grade from north to south.
“It’s amazing that it’s been that way forever and nobody’s ever noticed,” HHS principal Bobby Wilkins said. “I went to school there, coached there, actually ran track and I never noticed it.”
Wilkins said he had just gotten back in town and had not had a chance to look
closely at the football stadium options.
“Whatever works will be fine as long as we get everything fixed and up to date,” he said.