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Elgin faces tough times elevating facilities

There is a very good chance that in three years Elgin could be playing in a football district against MacArthur, Duncan, Altus, and maybe even Eisenhower, and that's exactly why the Elgin Board of Education had included improvements at Fighting Owls Stadium in its bond election Tuesday.

However, when the sun came up Wednesday, members of the board, Superintendent Nate Meraz and the hundreds of parents and friends who campaigned tirelessly for the bond were regrouping and trying to find out just what citizens didn't like about the package.

Clearly the $45 million proposal was large and would raise taxes about 11 percent, but one of the reasons to include so many needed items was to take advantage of the lower bond rates and construction costs. One estimate was that by doing all of the projects at one time would save nearly $8 million in construction and finance costs.

Because I was curious, I got on the Elgin website and used their tax estimator and saw that if my home was in that district that my tax increase would have been about $10 or $11 a month. That's one less meal at a restaurant, or it would have meant me skipping three large drinks each month from my favorite drive-in. 

The problem is that Elgin has grown faster than just about any school district in the state, with a massive bus route that goes all the way west to Meers, north to the northern waters of Lake Ellsworth and east to within a few miles of Sterling. 

That growth has now caught up with the school and some of the facilities just can't handle the volume of students, or in the case of the football stadium, the size of the crowds.

Sure, when Elgin started football back in the 1970s, it was in Class A or 2A and those schools don't travel with as many fans as these 4A schools. Now there is a good chance that Elgin may even grow to be included in Class 5A, which would really test the current facilities. 

Just think, MacArthur often travels with 500 or more fans, which would swamp those small visiting bleachers if they do start playing in the next few years.

That's why I thought Elgin's board had a wise plan, move the home bleachers to the west side of the stadium, expand them and build a larger press box to handle these larger schools. One huge positive would be the home fans wouldn't be facing the sun any longer.

Please don't say I'm wanting a larger press box for myself or my staffers. We represent a very small part of the workers using press boxes these days. 

These 4A and 5A schools have larger coaching staffs and they will put three, four or even five assistant coaches in the press box to spot during games. They almost always have two video cameras, one wide angle and one close-up, for both teams. And bigger schools almost always have a radio station, and in some cases two. I expect in the next few years some area radio station will start broadcasting Elgin games and they will need a special room as well.

There is another issue, more and more schools are streaming their broadcasts and selling the advertising to generate additional revenue for the school. Those cameras and operators will need a room. Then there is the announcer and his spotters, a scoreboard operator, and a 25-second clock operator.

You also need a print media room for at least four writers because most often the Constitution will be there along with the visiting paper and many times other statewide publications will show up for games with teams like Heritage Hall.

So, in my opinion, Elgin really needed those stadium improvements.

The other much-needed facility was the fieldhouse. I know from experience that it was hard for me to maneuver my scooter into the restrooms and they were way too small for the larger crowds coming even this year. They are also showing the signs of age if you get my drift. 

The board and administration had thought about male and female athletes alike by adding weight-lifting facilities for both groups as well as training rooms to treat athletic injuries.

Knowing what we just discussed, think about this, there will be a large number of great football schools coming to Elgin this season and those fans will have to be crammed somewhere. Anadarko, Cache, Weatherford and especially mighty Heritage Hall, are all bringing their teams to Elgin this season. If you are in this class, that is what you must deal with and there's no getting around it. 

At some point Elgin is going to have to enlarge the seating capacity at its stadium. 

But before you go complaining, there are positive points to remember. The good thing is everyone benefits when those large crowds come to town. The gate receipts help the school's athletic budget, the concessions help some group raise money for various causes. 

And remember this, those visiting fans also will fill up every restaurant and eating establishment in town. Some people will also need gas before heading home. The taxes from those purchases wind up helping the business community, the school system, the City of Elgin and other entities. 

Yes, there is an economic impact when these bigger schools come to town. However, if they come and find nowhere to sit, or the restroom facilities are too small, or that they must stand in line for 30 minutes to get concessions, then they won't come back in the future.

The other improvement that was planned at the football complex was artificial turf and trust me, artificial turf is no longer a luxury item in drought-plagued Oklahoma. If my memory serves me right, didn't Elgin have water pressure issues a few years ago? Didn't some back-up wells start sucking mud or something along those lines? 

Well, that's one of the reasons Tipton, which has eight-man football, opted to put in artificial turf several years back. When you start adding up the cost of new grass turf, then include the vast amount of water to allow it to survive in our hot summers, the mowing, marking, fertilizing, weeding and other miscellaneous costs, it's been proven to be almost the same cost when stretched out over the 10 to 12 years that most modern artificial turf manufacturers warranty their products.

And, these new rubber-filled fields are much less prone to injury than the old fields of 10 to 20 years ago. So, artificial turf is much more affordable these days when compared to real turf. 

I believe the only other sports-related item in the bond package was air conditioning for the gymnasium. That's another item that this writer can truly say is needed. I've sat in that facility for volleyball and basketball games and it was very hot, downright miserable to be honest. I know some elderly grandparents of former players who couldn't even go watch their grandkids compete in volleyball because of the heat in the gym.

Air conditioning in the gym also becomes very important when hosting volleyball and basketball camps in the summer months. Teams aren't going to come to Elgin and spend their money on a team camp when the temperatures are 90 or higher in the gym during the afternoon. 

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