Each high school in Richland School District 2 could have its own athletic stadium if voters in northeast Richland County say yes to a bond that will appear on Nov. 6 ballots.
Richland 2 is asking for permission to issue $86 million in bonds during the next five years to build stadiums at both Richland Northeast and Ridge View high schools, along with new field houses at each high school and a new district performance arts auditorium.
Currently, Richland Northeast plays its home games at Spring Valley’s Harry Parone Stadium, while Ridge View plays its home games at Blythewood High School. Westwood High has its own stadium, but it’s not shared with another school.
Bennett Weigle, head coach of Richland Northeast’s varsity football team, said having its own stadium would be great for the school.
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“The culture and just the school pride aspect I think is the most important aspect,” Weigle said. “The kids, the student body and the players will have something to call their own.”
Brian Rosefield, athletic director at Ridge View, made a similar point.
“From a school spirit standpoint and community building, that’s a challenge to be, again, sharing a stadium that’s really behind the walls of another high school,” Rosefield said.
Both Weigle and Rosefield said that building a culture and community around the high schools is important and that leaving campus for home games inhibits that.
“Every game is an away game, really,” Rosefield said.
None of the schools that share fields can put up permanent decorations, which leads Weigle to believe that both Spring Valley and Blythewood would also benefit if Richland Northeast and Ridge View get new stadiums.
“They can paint it, they can put whatever they want up,” Weigle said.
Aside from the school spirit element, sharing stadiums offers logistical challenges.
To transport members of the band, cheerleading squad and the football team, Ridge View uses five or six buses to go to every home game.
Richland Northeast does the same.
“That stuff adds up over time,” Weigle said.
The bond referendum will be offered in two separate questions: the first asking voters to approve $380.7 million worth of bonds to be used for safety/security and academic improvements within the district, and the second asking approval of the $86 million.
Some people appearing at district information meetings have expressed concerns about the bond’s overall cost, but more specifically about the second question.
Voters can approve both questions or question one alone, but if voters reject question one, question two will fail regardless of the vote.
If approved, the second question will also pay for new field houses at each high school, as well as a performance arts auditorium at the Richland 2 Institute of Innovation on Fashion Drive.
Building a stadium and a field house at Ridge View, as well as other improvements that include expanding the theater, would cost $17.2 million. At Richland Northeast, the cost would be $14 million for the stadium, field house and adding artificial turf to a field.
Wendy Campbell, the district’s fine arts coordinator, said one benefit of a new auditorium at would be easier access for the entire district, because of its more central location.
The current district auditorium is located on Richland Northeast’s campus, which Campbell said brings its own challenges as use of the facility can conflict with Richland Northeast’s campus activities.
For the past several years, the district has allowed Richland Northeast and Ridge View to play one varsity game each season on their own on-campus junior varsity fields.
Rosefield, whose Blazers will compete against Lancaster this Friday on Ridge View’s JV turf, said the game is always a big hit and offers a taste of how things could be.
“It’s quite a challenge to do it but we pull it off,” he said. “Again, we know it’s important for our kids, our families and alums to come back.”