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SHS looks to cover all bases with field decision

When Superior High School’s new National Bank of Commerce Spartan Sports Complex opens in the fall, teams will be vying for time on the turf.

Everyone is anxious to try out the new fields, said Ray Kosey, SHS activities director; but teams will need to remember that the complex is a shared facility.

That point was driven home Monday at the Superior School Board’s committee of the whole meeting.

During the meeting Kosey outlined plans for the use of the sports complex. The two new fields, officially designated as a baseball field and a football/soccer field, will be open to all athletic teams.

In the spring, Kosey said, that could lead to some shuffling of practice schedules.

“If one program is forced off of their facilities due to weather … we can find practice spots, we can find game spots,” Kosey said. “I believe baseball, soccer and softball could use either field for practices. It might sound weird that baseball could practice on a football field, but that could happen if it’s needed. And softball could use either field for games.”

The soccer team could also practice on the baseball field, Kosey said, thanks to a decision last month to make the field a multi-use space.

That decision, which touched off a month-long debate, was what prompted Kosey to speak at Monday’s meeting.

The dispute began when the parent of a softball player wrote a letter to the School Board in June alleging possible Title IX violations. Superintendent Janna Stevens suggested modifying the field to make it playable for both softball and baseball, but that plan had the baseball community crying foul.

Sue O’Neill was among the more vocal opponents of the dual-field plan and spoke at Monday’s meeting.

“You’re torpedoing softball and baseball,” she said. “All they (the softball team) wanted was an upgrade to their fields.

“I’m baffled how we got here.”

Attorney Kyle Torvinen, attending the meeting at Stevens’ request, said the district had an obligation to protect itself from possible Title IX noncompliance.

“When this issue originally came up via some complaints that came, for lack of a better term, from the softball side of things, we looked at those issues,” Torvinen said.

Some claims of unequal treatment — such as a lack of dugouts, scoreboards and batting cages at the Superior Middle School fields used by the softball team — did raise concerns.

On the other hand, Torvinen said it was clear the softball team had been consulted and had no interested in sharing the new baseball field.

“However, the obligation of the district is not to listen just necessarily to what people want,” he said. “We have to comply with Title IX regardless of what people want us to do.”

Torvinen recommended the district continue with its plan to make the baseball field dual-use. Following that course, he said, will ensure the district is in full compliance with Title IX.

According to Kosey, the changes needed to make the baseball field a dual-use field are minimal.

The field will be lined for  baseball only. Temporary paint will be used to draw softball lines when needed.

Fencing will also be installed according to baseball specifications. The softball team will need to set up temporary fencing.

The biggest difference is the use of a portable mound instead of a permanent mound on the field. The mound takes about 15 minutes to set up, Kosey said, and would be removed for softball games.

Another change is the placement of the backstop, which will now be 45 feet behind home plate. The WIAA recommends a distance of 60 feet for baseball and 25 feet for softball, Kosey said.

O’Neill said the compromises will change gameplay for both teams. She doesn’t plan to file a Title IX complaint against the Superior school district, but she is disappointed by the decision to make the baseball field a multi-use field.

“It sounds like you’re getting more bang for your buck, but you’re actually selling both teams short.” O’Neill told the School Board.

Kosey and Stevens both said the new field will be used primarily by the baseball team. The softball team will continue to play at SMS, with upgrades being made to the south field, Kosey said. Improvements will include new bases, batting cages, a scoreboard and maintenance to the field and fences.

Long-term, Kosey hopes to see the softball team get its own artificial turf field.