Seeking Advantage In A Time Of Inequity

Tuesday night’s WS/FCS Board meeting was another spirited affair. Supporters of R.J. Reynolds’ Home Field Advantage probably got more pushback from Save Hanes Park activists than they expected. But in the end, the school board voted unanimously to approve HFA’s plans for a new football stadium at Wiley Middle School.

Save Hanes Park supporters are definitely on the right side of history. Reynolds’ proposed new football stadium* is the wrong project, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

The Winston-Salem, Forsyth County School system has a wealth of needs. A new football stadium for R.J. Reynolds isn’t one of them. That’s why Reynolds’ Home Field Advantage is the wrong project.

Hanes Park is a nearly 100-year-old park that’s already in danger of becoming an athletic park, with just a token amount of green space. A football stadium would be a terrible addition to Hanes Park. It would bring in thousands of cars on game nights to a neighborhood that doesn’t have space for them. Northwest Boulevard and Hawthorne around Reynolds and Wiley would be impassable during football games. Hanes Park is the wrong place.

This is the wrong time for WSFCS to build a new football stadium, even board member David Singletary said, “that ship has sailed.” Reynolds should have built a football stadium years ago.

For many, many decades Reynolds has played football games at Bowman Gray Stadium and Deaton/Thompson Stadium. But suddenly, that’s a hardship that must be addressed? I’m not buying HFA’s argument.

A decade or so ago, when BB&T Ballpark was constructed, there should have been an effort to make BB&T Ballpark capable of hosting other athletic events, like high school football. BB&T Ballpark is roughly a mile from RJR’s campus. It could be their home field.

An on-campus stadium will address this long-standing inequity and provide RJR students with the same opportunities as students in the rest of the county and state.    -Reynolds HFA

Reynolds is the oldest school in the county; the school will celebrate its centennial in just a few years. They have a large and powerful alumni base in Winston. Apparently, they’re a well-connected group that the school board can’t say no to.

They began their Home Field Advantage campaign with loud assurances that their new stadium would be 100 percent privately funded. After failing to raise the money they promised, they’ve scaled back their plans and secured public dollars, for their “advantage.”

The school board and the local paper don’t want to admit that a once private initiative has become a public/private partnership.

UPDATE 2017: The 2016 School Bond includes an improved pedestrian safety, a new drop-off area, and new parking plan.

Q: Is the entire project privately funded?

No. Taxpayers would pay at both the beginning of the project and after construction is completed. An estimated $3 million* is required for a new gym necessitated by the stadium’s demolition of two existing gyms. Taxpayers would also pay for new access streets and for additional unspecified elements of the development. The day construction is completed, taxpayers would assume payment of ongoing operating expenses including stadium, lights, clean up, added security, and facility maintenance.

Reynolds new stadium is a vanity project to help RJR compete with Reagan and West Forsyth, an effort to return RJR High to its former glory. (It might even be an effort to maintain masculine football culture at an arts magnet school.)

Whatever reasons Reynolds Home Field Advantage have for their obsession with building a football stadium, it’s a ridiculous project for a city and county that are deeply divided racially and economically.

A new school for Ashley is the current moral issue before us. Ashley Academy should be rebuilt and open to school children before the board even thinks about giving more money to Reynolds’ new stadium.


*Reynolds Home Field Advantage describes their new stadium as a “multi-use” stadium. But in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County we build football stadiums, we don’t build soccer or lacrosse stadiums. Therefore, it’s fair to call HFA’s stadium, a football stadium.

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