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Letter to the editor: Time is right to approve the referendum

 

As a former high Jamestown High School principal, teacher, football coach and longtime admirer and supporter of the Ernie Gates Football Field, I want to share my perspective on plans to build an athletic complex on the Jamestown High School campus.

I was part of a committee that met between 2006-2008 to discuss many of the same issues that have been addressed by the Citizen’s Advisory Committee. In reviewing the notes from those meetings, we had many of the same questions and concerns that still exist today.

As the Citizen’s Advisory Committee has done, we explored the issues from all angles and considered numerous different options. As we considered renovations to Ernie Gate Field, we were concerned about inadequate parking, handicap accessibility, safety related to students traveling to practice while elementary students leave school, cost of updating older facilities and the various improvements that would be needed to make Ernie Gates a viable space.

The University of Jamestown, then known as Jamestown College, was involved in those discussions as well. Sharing facilities at that time was not a viable option for either facility. UJ and JPS are two excellent institutions that want what is best for the students in Jamestown. Some talks with UJ have been respectfully ongoing and continue without a resolution for the needs of each.

Back in 2008, the decision was made to maintain Ernie Gates and make some site improvements. Lots of reasons lead to that recommendation, but it primarily came down to cost and timing.Ultimately, some of these changes were done, but others were not. As I revisit the concerns of safety, parking, accessibility and costs to update and maintain Ernie Gates, those same issues still exist.

I believe that it is time for our community to move on from Ernie Gates Football Field at Washington Elementary. While it has been a historic and important place for many of us, it simply doesn’t meet the needs of our students and community today. The football field is a part of the “athletic complex” plan but not the entire use. Soccer field support, locker rooms, concessions, tickets, band practice, physical education classes, team practices, media broadcasting, parking and more will benefit our students and community.

While the time wasn’t right in 2008, I believe that the time is right for us to vote YES on the referendum and make those needed updates today.