West Jefferson Hills bags plan for softball field at new high school
West Jefferson Hills School District leaders have axed plans to build a softball field at the $95 million Thomas Jefferson High School, set to open in the summer.
Instead, they plan to improve the existing softball and baseball fields, while crafting a long-term plan for the district's athletic facilities.
“The long-term plan would be to have all of our athletics where the high school is, but we want to do it right and we want to do it as part of a whole plan,” Superintendent Michael Ghilani said.
Board members at a Sept. 26 meeting voted unanimously to accept a quote of $48,310 for renovation of the district's softball field at the high school complex. They also accepted a $135,852 quote for renovation of the baseball field at Jefferson Elementary School. Athletic Field Pros is the company doing the renovations.
The softball field was the only athletic facility planned for construction at the new high school.
The football stadium, constructed in 2001-02, will remain at the high school on Old Clairton Road, about a mile from the 161-acre site where the new school is being built.
Initial architectural drawings included sketches of a stadium and athletic complex at the new school. That vision could be addressed later, possibly in 15 to 20 years, Ghilani said.
Plans for the softball field at the new school included a “very basic design, with very little infrastructure,” Ghilani said.
“It was a fence and two benches. Very basic,” he said. “The dugouts were literally a bench with a fence wrapped around it with a tin roof over it, which would give parents access,” Ghilani said. “I mean, literally, parents could be surrounding the bench talking to their kids as the game is going on. So there's safety concerns. There were just so many concerns with that field.”
The superintendent said it made the most fiscal sense to put the $66,346 that would have been spent on that field into the current facilities to make improvements.
“We felt the fiscally responsible thing to do in the somewhat short term was to renovate both of those fields so that they have proper draining. They were never property installed,” he said. “The company that we're bringing in to renovate both fields – they've done PNC Park, they've done Heinz Field, but they've also done a lot of other projects.”
Board members at a special meeting last week approved hiring Core Architects to conduct a feasibility study that will include a long-term plan for athletic facilities in the district.
“Then, I think we can reasonably turn our attention to looking at our athletic program and athletic facility and how we can upgrade that as part of that plan.” Ghilani said. “Ultimately, we'd like to do our athletic complex the right way.”
Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.