West Orange spring football game in jeopardy

  • By
  • | 7:01 a.m. April 23, 2015
West Orange to host turf fundraiser
West Orange to host turf fundraiser
  • West Orange Times & Observer
  • Neighborhood
  • Share

WINTER GARDEN — The situation surrounding the synthetic turf playing surface at West Orange High School has become increasingly dire as the school’s football program now is in jeopardy of no longer being able to host its spring football game.

The Warriors football team is scheduled to host Gainesville High School May 29 for the program’s annual spring game. 

When the field was deemed unplayable on March 19, Athletic Director Adam Miller set May 1 as an unofficial deadline to have an arrangement in place for a replacement field. Given the time it will take to get a field approved by Orange County Public Schools, manufactured and then installed, May 1 was believed to be a cutoff date beyond which the field likely would not be ready in time.

So far, the school has raised about $100,000 of the $323,000 it needs for the replacement field. This leaves three possibilities: The remaining $223,000 will need to be raised in a matter of days; OCPS can choose to let the school finance a replacement field; or the school will not have a field, and the game will be relocated to Gainesville High School.

If the third scenario comes to fruition, the school would then work to have an arrangement in place by summer’s end so that it can host its regular-season home opener Aug. 28 against Foundation Academy.

Miller said April 17 he has a meeting scheduled with officials from OCPS on April 24 to discuss allowing the school to finance the field. 

Because of the debacle with the installation of the first field, wherein pledged donors did not fulfill their pledge and left the school — and subsequently OCPS — with the bill, the district has preferred West Orange pay for the replacement field in cash.

Miller expressed optimism that the district would come around on financing the field, noting that the school — which has been paying back OCPS for the original field on an annual basis — has been comfortably making those payments from its ticket sales and rental income and therefore can reasonably continue to make similar payments of around $30,000 annually, after using the $100,000 it currently has raised as a down payment.

“The biggest difference between nine years ago and now is we learned from the mistakes,” Miller said. “The numbers alone prove that we can make payments yearly.”

The school’s leadership is thankful for the many individuals and businesses who have donated toward the replacement field, some of whom have utilized a website the school launched, SaveTheTurf.net. 

Conversely, Miller said he also has encountered apprehension by some who wonder how the school came to be in the predicament.

“The response from the community has been neutral, kind of,” Miller said. “You’ve got a lot of supporters, and you’ve got a lot of people with questions — and rightfully so. A lot of things happened nine years ago, and a lot of people don’t know the whole story.”

To address some of the more common questions, SaveTheTurf.net features a PowerPoint presentation that, among other things, addresses how the situation arose. It also addresses common questions from around the community in the past several weeks, including why the school needs a turf field and why it would be more expensive to return to a natural grass playing surface. 

Effects of the field situation already have been felt by some of the school’s spring sports programs. 

The girls lacrosse team had to relocate its final home game, the team’s Senior Night game, to Wekiva High School, while the boys lacrosse team, which was to host a state playoff game against Dr. Phillips April 17, instead played at Dr. Phillips.

Those instances, though, would pale in comparison to the school losing any home football games. West Orange draws about 3,000 spectators per home game. The Warriors’ first three games this fall are scheduled as home games, including a matchup with the Dr. Phillips Panthers on Sept. 11 that is arguably the most anticipated game in the program’s history. Both teams are expected to be state title contenders in Class 8A, and the game also resumes the storied Ol’ Orange Crate Rivalry.

“I can see it being close to 5,000 fans that we’re going to be losing,” Miller said of possibly having to relocated the game to Dr. Phillips. “Financially, that would be devastating. That game alone would pay for a year’s payment if we are able to finance.”


Latest News