Back to Home Page

Local Links
Sun Valley Guide
Hemingway in Sun Valley
Real Estate

For the week of May 30 through June 5, 2001

Looks like the old football field is new again

Wolverine grid games may return to Nelson Field

The last time Wood River High School played a varsity football game on the field by the rodeo grounds in Hailey was way back in 1978.

But it’s looking more and more like the Wolverines, next fall, will be returning to play their games on the "old field" that witnessed many Hailey football successes 35 years ago.

That’s because the Blaine County School District is on track to begin building a new high school on the existing football field this summer.

So the football games have to go somewhere—until land for a new football field and playing fields near the new high school is acquired and developed.

And the likely place is where Wolverine football games used to be played, on the school district-owned fields between the Blaine County Hospital and Hailey Elementary School.

"To stay on track, we hope to break ground on the new high school in midsummer or early fall," said Dr. Jim Lewis, Blaine County superintendent of schools.

Accommodating Wood River grid games until a new field is developed could take a couple of years, Dr. Lewis said. "We feel the best option is the field by Hailey Elementary," he said during an interview in May.

The $19.6 million high school was the centerpiece of a $40 million school facilities levy that Blaine County voters approved by a 58.7% margin out of 3,569 votes cast May 2, 2000. The 10-year, $4 million-a-year levy needed 55% to pass.

In months leading up to the election, proponents said they wanted to build the new high school on 15 acres of ranch land northeast of the existing high school, on property owned by real estate broker Stoney Burke and Fred Judd.

By Sept. 2000, four months after the election, the property still hadn’t been purchased. So Dr. Lewis switched gears. Because of the unresolved property acquisition, he said the new high school would likely be built on the football field.

"We wanted to get the new building closer to the old building, for many reasons," he said.

Land issues remain unresolved, he said, as is the bureaucratic process of rerouting Quigley Creek—a process that could clear the necessary government agencies by July.

"But if we hit any snags, we won’t be able to do anything with the property until we reroute the creek," he said.

"Fortunately we already have the land where the new high school will be built. It’s the proposed new football field and playing fields around it that are tied up in the process."

Estimated completion date of the new high school is the fall of 2003.

Lewis said the school district has been looking at several options for relocating its high school football games because of this summer’s anticipated start of construction.

By far the best option, he said, is moving football games to the "old field." That field, now called Nelson Field, was adjacent to the old Hailey high school prior to 1976, when the new high school was finished.

The process, Dr. Lewis said, will entail moving light standards from the new field to the old and installing a scoreboard and bleachers at the "old field," owned by the school district and located near the hospital.

"It’s still a pretty solid field," said Dr. Lewis. "It will need some work, but we think the work is minimal and it can be turned into a high school football field fairly quickly.

"I know I’m committed to night football and want to do everything I can to provide it."

Wood River will probably have to play its grid games there for as many as two years, Dr. Lewis said, while the new school is being finished.

Although Nelson Field is the preferred option, it has its own complications, he said.

Foremost is the fact that soccer has grown enormously since 1978, and Nelson Field is being heavily used for youth and adult soccer when it’s not being used for youth baseball.

Dr. Lewis said the school district will do everything it can to accommodate soccer, such as practicing soccer on the outfield at the Founders Field baseball facility.

School officials also considered using the Wood River Middle School’s Chuck Turner field for high school football games. "The problem was, the middle school already has a full program of football," he said.

Once the school district solves its immediate problem of where to play high school football games, officials are also deliberating options for the new football and practice fields.

They could plant grass, which takes about two years to grow, Dr. Lewis said. Or they could sod the field, which takes about three months but is more expensive.

A third option is a new option for the football field only, but it would require a private fund-raising effort, he said.

Dr. Lewis said, "It’s Nike turf—no maintenance, no watering and available 24 hours a day. It’s about $200,000 more than the sod option, but over a 10-year period we could save quite a bit of money because we wouldn’t have to water it."

Tearing up the old field and track for the new high school will force the school district to replace its all-weather track.

Dr. Lewis said the current track "has some age on it," and needed to be replaced anyway. The new track will be wider and better, he said.

In the long run, Wood River athletic facilities will be improved, he said.

Dr. Lewis said, "The high school football staff has been very congenial to realize that in the long run, facilities will be upgraded—despite the short-run inconveniences."

One of his toughest assignments in navigating through the logistics of the field situation, Dr. Lewis said, was informing former Blaine school superintendent Phil Homer of the plans to tear up "his field."

Homer, a former Wolverine coach, has been one of the biggest supporters of Wood River football for over 30 years. The current high school field was named in his honor prior to Homer’s retirement in 1999.

And a rock was installed to label it "Homer Field."

Dr. Lewis said, "It was tough for me to ask Mr. Homer if he thought it would be okay to build the new high school on his field. I went down to his house and told him personally, and he said it was okay. But I promised him we’d move the rock to the new field."


Some history

Wood River has played its football games on Homer Field for 23 seasons, starting with a 42-0 loss to Bishop Kelly back on Sept. 22, 1978. The first home win on the new field came in 1979, 30-14 over Wendell.

A total 95 varsity games have been played on the new field, Wood River compiling a 29-65-1 record. Home success has been better recently, Wood River posting its first back-to-back winning home seasons in 1999 (3-0) and 2000 (3-1).

For the field’s first three seasons, daytime games were played—3 p.m. kickoffs the first two seasons and 5 p.m. starts the next fall. First game under the lights was a 19-6 Homecoming loss to Buhl Oct. 9, 1981.

Next fall’s Wolverine football schedule includes four 7 p.m. varsity games—Aug. 31 with Wendell, Sept. 14 Homecoming against Glenns Ferry, Sept. 28 home against Declo and Oct. 12 home with Filer.

Home JV contests are set for Sept. 6 against Middleton, Sept. 20 against Kimberly, Oct. 3 with Buhl and Oct. 18 against Gooding.






Back to Front Page
Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.