Schools opt for center over stadium

By Carolyn Cole/Staff Writer

Bronco Stadium renovation plans were benched as Mustang School District officials weighed projects for a $13 million bond issue, which voters will consider April 3.

Instead school officials decided to include a $3.352 million multipurpose health and wellness facility, along with $4.6 million to build classroom additions at three elementary schools and $900,000 for school buses and a vocational agriculture truck. The remaining funds would help the district keep up with technology, security, band instruments and uniforms, equipment and maintenance needs for over 1.1 million square feet of facilities.

MSD Superintendent Karl Springer said officials chose the multipurpose facility instead of football stadium renovations because they believed it would be used by more students.

“We have athletes who have no place to go when it’s really cold,” he said. “Right now we have soccer athletes, and kids in baseball and some track kids and basketball players that all really need to have a place to go practice that’s warm.”

School officials listed renovating Bronco Stadium as a priority, partly because the facility does not fit Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines. However the facility isn’t out of compliance because it was built decades before the act received Congressional approval.

School officials also said Mustang’s athletic facilities rank near the bottom for 6A classified high schools, and although the facility is able to host smaller competitions, it doesn’t seat enough people to host band contests or football playoffs. At most, it seats 2,500 on the home side and 1,500 people to the west, compared to 10,000 spectators that attend football playoffs.

Springer said the project is still in the district’s long-range plans and could be included in future bond issues, including one in 2009 for between $17 million and $18 million.

“We want to greet anybody to our community and our facilities and have them feel reasonably accommodated,” he said. “We may look at doing something to that football facility to make it a little more comfortable (in the meantime.)”

The stadium’s shape is an example of how athletic facilities have taken a back seat to academic needs, Springer said, as the district has struggled for decades to build classrooms to keep up with student population growth. He pointed to the MHS gymnasium, which opened in 1964. Then the school had two gymnasiums to serve 330 ninth- through 12th-grade students. Now the district has three high school level gymnasiums, including Mustang Mid-High, to serve over 2,200 students in grades nine through 12.

“Kids are role oriented; they see themselves in the band, they see themselves as athletes, football players or tennis players or wrestlers,” Springer said. “What we need to be able to do is make sure we give them the opportunity to have that role, because if you don’t have that role, you don’t have that niche, and a lot of people never get to that point where they become goal oriented.”

Right now, Springer said about 735 10th- through 12th- grade students are involved in school athletics, with 75 athletic teams at the middle and high school level. Each of those teams are vying for practice space, he said, forcing coaches to hold early morning and late evening practices. Officials have said they are concerned practice times could be discouraging students from eating breakfast before school and cutting into their rest, as well as barring some students without transportation from participating in activities.

“A lot of times participation in extracurricular activities cause kids to stay in school,” Springer said. “We know that. It’s a vital part of the program.”

With the 15,000- and 20,000- square-foot multipurpose facility, with gym floors, a track, coaches and trainers offices, locker and weight rooms, teams would have another facility to hold practices, and Springer said hopefully more practice time can occur as a course elective.

“It wouldn’t belong to any one of those sports and all of them would be able to use it,” he said. “We would be able to make it so it could be divided up and could be used so we could get kids in out of the cold and have a couple more courts.”

Springer said Mustang High School could offer more physical education classes. Oklahoma legislators could hear a bill this session, which would require four credits of physical education to graduate from high school. Senate Bill 978, proposed by Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Holdenville, if approved as it was filed, would require beginning with the Class of 2011, or this year’s eighth-grade class, to take four credits of physical education to graduate.

Springer said while he supports increasing physical education instruction in secondary schools, it would be difficult for MSD to find enough facility space to meet the proposed requirement. However, he said being able to offer more physical education classes in the planned facility would be a step in the right direction.

“We want to encourage our kids to take physical education and things that cause them to move and be active,” he said.

Besides allowing more athletic team practice space and room for physical education classes, the district could use the facility to help meet state testing requirements. State law requires beginning with the Class of 2012, or this year’s seventh-graders, students must pass four End of Instruction exams to receive a high school diploma, two of which must be Algebra I and English II.

Schools will be required to offer students who fail the exams extra instruction and another chance to take the exam.

“We need to be able to do it in a routine, graceful kind of way and be able to have a place where we could test 300 to 400 students at a time, that would be nice,” Springer said.

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