After more than five months without a home field for several programs at West Orange High, an end may be in sight.
Installation of a new synthetic-turf playing surface at Raymond Screws Field began Feb. 13 with the removal of the former turf field. That playing surface was damaged during Hurricane Irma last September when a stadium light fell onto the area of the field near the visitor’s sideline. The light shattered and left glass shards embedded into the turf.
“It was considered dangerous — we tried to clean it up, and there was still glass in the field,” West Orange Athletic Director Jerry Shafer said. “Obviously, OCPS is looking out for the best interests of the student-athletes, so we just couldn’t have anyone on that side of field, period.”
The school also had to replace all four stadium light poles as a result of the storm — two fell during Irma, and a third was considered unstable.
The process of replacing the lights and replacing the field has been handled at the district level by Orange County Public Schools, and Shafer complimented the district on its response.
The time lost since the storm has meant relocating home games in several sports to away games — including football. That meant a decrease in revenue; ticket sales are an important source of funds for high-school athletic departments.
Other sports impacted include boys and girls soccer in the winter, as well as boys and girls lacrosse and girls flag football in the spring.
Shafer is hesitant to commit to a timeline for when the field will be ready, noting that several factors could delay completion. But he said he is hopeful spring sports will be able to salvage a home game or two.
“I’m hoping we can get some senior nights in for lacrosse and flag football,” Shafer said.
The replacement process is the second the school has had to go through in four years — in 2015, the former playing surface was replaced during the summer after it was deemed unplayable in the spring.
The in-between time without a field has meant no home games — including on senior night for football and soccer. Noting that relocating games is not only an inconvenience on West Orange’s end, but also on that of the school that hosts the games, Shafer praised his colleagues at other OCPS schools.
“I’ve realized how well some of these athletic directors work with each other,” Shafer said. “I’ve seen schools step up and give us an opportunity to make (our senior nights) special.”
And despite the adversity that the Warriors have faced across several sports, the on-the-field results have been above average across the board.
“The kids at West Orange are adaptive — they roll with it,” Shafer said. “They deal with it and make the best of it. Our programs are still pretty good, and we’re playing 100% of games on the road.”