Last Saturday Provo City School District Board Member Michelle Kaufusi cut the ribbon on Provo High School's 3.2 million dollar multi-sport complex. The new sporting complex features a new artificial turf football/soccer field, track and field surface, along with a new press box, stands and staging areas for Provo High teams prior to competition.
Nearly 1,000 people, many of which were alumni, came to see the event. Due to inclement weather much of the ceremonies were moved inside to the gym.
Provo Principal Jeff Schoonover, Provo City Councilman Kay Van Buren, Provo School District Superintendent Keith Rittel, and Provo School Board President Michelle Kaufusi addressed the audience about the processes that led to the construction of the facility, why they felt it was needed, and what it will mean to the Provo High students and the community at large.
As the speakers concluded their remarks, the rains stopped and the patrons moved across the parking lot where Kaufusi cut the ribbon. Those in attendance were given tours of the new facility by Provo High student body government officers.
As people toured the facility, Provo High's girl's soccer team entertained Copper Hills in the first official competition in the multi-sport complex. Neither team scored in the first half but the Grizzlies found the back of the net three times to defeat the Bulldogs 3-0.
After the soccer game the football team held its annual "Green vs. White" scrimmage and the festivities ended with patrons being able to come directly onto the field to see and touch the new playing surface.
The new track will be put into place by week's end and that along with some interior work inside the building housed below the stands and some landscaping along the exterior, the project will be fully completed within a few weeks.
During his remarks Schoonover said when the lights were on the night before the ribbion-cutting, it was like the movie "Field of Dreams" as car after car pulled into the Provo High parking lot to see the new facility.
"The sense of pride that I have observed in our students because of our new facility has been has been so amazing to see already," said Schoonover in an interview. "It was so fun to see the emotions in the members of the student council on a tour of the new facility as they jumped up and down screaming and hugging each other."
Schoonover also sees the immediate impact it will have on the football program which has struggled to find victory in recent years.
"The joy in watching the Provo High football players literally run to the new field for their first practice tells the story of what this new facility means to the football program. Our new multi-purpose synthetic (turf) field will provide an amazing playing surface that will prevent injury and can be used 24 hours a day year round and in any weather condition," he added.
Provo City Councilman Van Buren noted the injury prevention dimension of the field in his remarks alluding to his own son, a top player for Provo High last season who missed several games due to an leg injury. In the spring, several soccer players missed action including two with broken ankles. This was because the practice fields have been overused. Much of this use is by Provo High programs, but with the fields being so close to BYU, they are regularly visited by college students as well as others.
Superintendent Rittel in his remarks told the audience that the complex was "done on time and on budget" and promised future projects will be held to the same standard.
There has been some amount of criticism of the project. In tough economic times, some questioned the judgment of building a 3.2 million dollar project.
And while one of the purposes was to bring equity in the sports facilities between the district's two high schools, Provo and Timpview, many have found fault with the fact that public monies were used for this project while most of the upgrades at Timpview such as their football center, turf field and new weight room came about through private donations.
Still others feel the district has other pressing needs with other buildings across the district, and even at Provo High School itself.
But Rittel pointed out in his remarks that the facility itself, though built for Provo High students as its primary users, can and will be used by the broader Provo city community. And with a true state-of-the-art facility, there are hopes and plans to host events that will bring money into the district and school. The field itself will cut down on injuries as well as maintenence costs that come with grass surfaces.
One critical question is whether Provo High's athletic programs, which have generally struggled the past few years, will receive a boost. Will the new complex bring victories?
School board member Marsha Judkins is hopeful.
"Students, coaches, faculty and administration can be proud of the facilities they have to offer visiting schools. It can also change a mindset. Such amazing facilities must be the home of amazing students, programs, and athletic teams," stated Judkins.
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It is no doubt that facilities can change attitudes amongst athletes and parents. Provo High administrators and coaches, particularly the football program, are hoping that athletes living in the Provo High boundaries that might have been lost to other programs, will now stay home and play on Provo High's "Field of Dreams."
Brian E. Preece is a freelance sports writer who has been published by numerous publications. He is also entering his 19th year of teaching and coaching at Provo High School and was the head wrestling coach from 1994-2006.