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Future of baseball field to be discussed Monday

 The debate over Superior High School’s new artificial turf baseball field continues after the school district received a second Title IX complaint, this time on behalf of the baseball team.

Sue and Mark O’Neill submitted a letter to the Superior School Board alleging a violation of the anti-discrimination law after the school district unveiled a plan to make the new field at the National Bank of Commerce Spartan Sports Complex available to both the softball and baseball teams.

That plan, Sue O’Neill said, would leave the baseball team only half of a district field to use. The softball team, meanwhile, would have two and a half district fields if it continued utilizing the fields at Superior Middle School.

“The girls absolutely deserve a good field too,” O’Neill said, but she doesn’t think it should come at the expense of the baseball team.

O’Neill recommended the district leave the new artificial turf field as a designated baseball field, with the understanding that the softball team would have access to the surface in the spring if the SMS fields were unplayable.

“Baseball and softball are completely different games,” O’Neill said. “It is not practical to share a field.”

For the past month, activities director Ray Kosey has been working with a committee to resolve the dispute.

“I do have the two groups sitting down and talking about how we can share our facilities,” he said.

Kosey said an agreement was reached this week, and he will present his recommendation to the Superior School Board at Monday’s committee of the whole meeting.

According to superintendent Janna Stevens, the district is firm in its decision to pursue a multi-use field at the new site; but she still expects the baseball team to use the field primarily.

“We just want to make sure we have the capacity to have it used” for different sports, Stevens said.

The school district changed its original plans for the field after receiving a letter in June from the parent of a softball player. The letter raised questions of possible Title IX violations.

Stevens said the school district’s attorneys told her the district was not in violation, but she decided to take action as a precaution.

“Our concern is, are they (the fields) as comparable as they should be,” she said.

To make the new field playable for softball and baseball, it will have temporary fencing, a removable pitching mound and removable bases.

According to Kosey, SHS baseball coach Don Dembroski has given his stamp of approval to the pitching mound being considered. The mound has an aluminum base with a clay insert to give the surface a natural feel.

“Our kids will still be pitching off of clay,” Kosey said.

Kosey expects to have more details about the field for Monday’s meeting.

He said his presentation outlines how both of the new fields at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex will be utilized, and he’ll also share short-term and long-term plans for the two softball fields at Superior Middle School.

O’Neill said she hopes the School Board will considered what is best for both the baseball and softball teams. Forcing them to share one field, she said, would be the worst possible option.

“You’re going to be spending millions of dollars, and it won’t be helping anyone,” O’Neill said.

Funding needed

Three items remain on the district’s wish list for the new baseball field: batting cages, portable bleachers and lighting.

“We now have enough money to purchase the batting cages,” Kosey said. The district was able to lower the price tag by opting for used turf rather than brand new turf in the batting cages.

The next item likely to be checked off the list will be the portable bleachers. Kosey said the bleachers run in the range of $25,000. During the football season, the bleachers would be moved into the stadium to provide seating for the band.

Lighting for the baseball field will be much more expensive. Kosey estimated the cost at about $225,000.