September 14, 2019

Hanes Park Celebrates Centennial, But Proposed Stadium Threatens It’s Next 100 Years

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In football, there is a 100 percent chance of injury. Supporters of Hanes Park are legitimately concerned that a proposed new sports (football) stadium at Wiley Middle (spilling over to Hanes Park) will mortally injure one of Winston’s most cherished public parks.

Located in the center of our city, Hanes Park is “the front yard of the West Highlands and West End neighborhoods.” Its central location makes it accessible to the entire city. That’s what P.H. Hanes had in mind 100 years ago when he gave it to the citizens of Winston-Salem. (Perhaps, P.H. Hanes had the same thing in mind that Will Reynolds did when he left Tanglewood to Forsyth County.)

Today, Hanes Park is used by many residents for many purposes. In recent years neighbors encouraged the City to make some much-needed repairs and improvements to Hanes Park. The City responded by including Hanes Park in its 2014 and 2018 bond packages. After a facelift from the City, it’s a once again, a beautiful, vibrant public park in a city that still has some work to do when it comes to public parks.

Hanes Park’s Centennial is an opportunity for us to remember the history of Hanes Park and think about its future. The existential threat to Hanes Park is Home Field Advantage’s proposed stadium, something Reynolds’ Home Field Advantage has advocated for since 2011. They continue to speak of access and equity to promote their cause. They view a new stadium for the city’s most storied public school as being as important as a new school for Ashley Academy, a majority Black/brown school in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

Home Field Advantage is one ungrateful lot. It’s hard to believe that a high school long-associated with wealth and privilege could complain so loudly. They should be thankful that they can make liberal use of Hanes Park. They have a beautiful, historic school, with an equally historic auditorium and modern performing arts building.

They have succeeded in getting $9.3 million from local taxpayers to relocate Wiley Middle’s gymnasium-a prerequisite for a future stadium. Back in 2012, Kathryn Spanos told the Journal that Home Field Advantage would pay for a new gymnasium for Wiley. That promise was quietly retracted when RJR Home Field Advantage’s ambitious fundraising plans fizzled.

When Hops Burger Barn opens soon, Reynolds’ Home Field Advantage should go there, have a beer and a burger, and declare mission accomplished! Nearly $10 million for a new gym/boiler room is a win! Reynolds jumped in line, Ashley Academy and other schools in the urban core have far more pressing needs.

Moving Wiley’s gym to Northwest Blvd will give Wiley and Reynolds space for another practice field or a much more modest stadium. But it won’t provide them with enough room for the stadium that they are demanding. Their dream stadium would ruin Hanes Park’s balancing act, as both a public park and WS/FCS athletic grounds. It would make Hanes Park more prone to flooding, and lead to significant parking and congestion issues around Hanes Park.

Huber Hanes III said it best:

“This stadium plan isn’t pretty and it’s not in the best interest of the citizens of Winston-Salem. They’re trying to fit a size 12 foot into a size 6 shoe.

My great-grandfather, P.H. Hanes, gave 49 acres to be developed into a public park almost 100 years ago. His intent was that all citizens be able to enjoy safe recreation — meaning that regardless of personal wherewithal, everyone would have access to top-tier athletic fields in a pastoral setting. -Winston-Salem Journal 

Another anniversary has received far less fanfare. Deaton-Thompson Stadium just turned twenty-five. The stadium that Reynolds shares with Parkland is not a perfect fit for either school. Both schools want new stadiums. The school board must be careful not to waste scarce dollars on unnecessary stadiums when Forsyth County has so many Title One schools that desperately need all the resources that we can give them.

Going forward, the WS/FCS Board should consider renovating Deaton-Thompson, moving Reynolds’ football games to BB&T Ballpark, or possibly even constructing a new stadium on Paisley/Lowrance’s campus. But the school system should under no circumstances fund Reynold’s ambitious stadium adjacent to Hanes Park.

Our ‘equity school board’ has higher priorities. It is a scandal how Reynolds Home Field Advantage has partisan boosters on the school board pushing their agenda. Private agendas stifle democracy and if left unchecked they could ruin a great park.

Local officials should be promoting the common good. At Hanes Park’s Centennial celebration last Saturday Councilmember Jeff MacIntosh said, “Hanes Park is a textbook example of diversity, openness, and equality-let’s keep it that way.” The future is in our hands. It’s up to us to preserve Hanes Park for the next 100 years.

“Disregarding any impact to Hanes Park and the neighborhoods, one has to question the validity of spending so much money on a stadium at a time when the education system is under such extreme stress. It is tragic what is happening to school funding. It should be the quality of the teachers and academics that makes Reynolds High School great, not a new football stadium. Invest in the core educational mission and what ultimately matters to the entire student body and their future — and the future of Winston-Salem.”

JOHN C. LARSON, Winston-Salem Journal

 

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