Basin Fieldhouse a Shangri-La for spring’s prep sports
March 9, 2012
While an impending spring snowstorm looms over Park City, a pitcher stands on a replica mound and delivers a pitch. The batter, ready to square up a bunt, makes contact and there is an eruption.
The third baseman charges the bunt and delivers an off-balanced strike to first base to get the out.
It’s baseball practice in early March, and the temperature outside is a sliver north of freezing, so the Park City High School baseball team is running drills inside the comfort of the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse.
The baseball doesn’t roll along indoor turf as it would on chilled dirt when the Miners play outdoors, but it’s good enough for second-year head coach Lou Green, a native West Virginian, who was introduced to the cruelties of coaching in Utah spring weather in 2011.
"If it wasn’t for those couple days at the Fieldhouse," he said, "I’d be pulling my hair out."
The baseball team isn’t the only PCHS spring program that happily takes advantage of the imposing facility at Kimball Junction.
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First-year boys’ soccer coach Jesse Blais, a 2002 graduate of Park City High School, recalls the days when the preseason tryouts and practices had to be held on the hardwood at the high school.
And when the basketball gym was already in use, he said, the team would have to take the chance of driving to Heber or Salt Lake City in hopes a soccer field wasn’t covered in white.
"The playing surface makes all the difference," he said. "Just being able to hold tryouts in the Fieldhouse instead of the gym is great because you can evaluate guys so much better."
The Fieldhouse, erected in 2004, has become a more of a hit in the community than ever imagined, according to Bonnie Park, public-affairs manager for Basin Recreation.
"We’re all thinking about where we live and what it’s really like to train in a mountain community," she said. "When we built the Fieldhouse, that was pretty trend-setting in of itself."
Park said plans to allow the local high school teams to use the Fieldhouse were set in motion five years ago.
"Basin Recreation, Park City Municipal Corporation and the Park City School District operate under the terms of a three-way joint use agreement for Recreation in the way fields and facilities are managed to guide the efficient delivery of recreation facilities and services in the greater Park City area. This agreement was adopted in 2007, and is currently in the process of a five-year review and renewal between the three jurisdictions," she said.
"The three-way cooperative agreement works in favor of taxpayers through shared use of public recreation facilities for programming, including the indoor turf at the Fieldhouse."
Park said a recreation round table comprised of two city council members, two recreation board members, two school board members and two staff members from each organization is in the midst of revisiting the initial agreement. Park said a meeting regarding the initiative is scheduled for Thursday, March 15.
"Remarkably, there are not a lot of changes," she said.
According to Matt Strader, the Fieldhouse recreation manager, the number of teams that want time at the Fieldhouse is no longer as intimidating as it once was. Strader said now that the turf at Dozier Field is being plowed by the high school, and the Quinn’s Junction Complex is being cleared off regularly, not every team is begging for times.
"That’s really taken the pressure off of us here at the Fieldhouse," he said. "But from the beginning, it’s always been a pretty good relationship with all the teams. At first, we were thinking, ‘Who’s really going to be able to use that indoor time from 3 to 5?’ Then we realized it’d be perfect for the high school kids."
Alissa Smith, also a PCHS graduate and first-year head coach of the softball team, said she elected not to use the Fieldhouse for softball practice this year. She said she grew up honing her softball skills indoors on the basketball court, and said the time at the Fieldhouse should go to the baseball team, which needs a larger space than the softball team.
Smith also noted that her 27-player roster consists mainly of younger players who aren’t old enough to drive to the Fieldhouse for practices.
She said Green has helped the softball team set up a suspended batting cage in the gym at the high school that’s as good as she’s seen it during her time associated with PCHS softball.
"We make do with what we have," she said.
The PCHS lacrosse club teams are also able to work in time at the Fieldhouse, and George Murphy and the Miners girls’ golf team even make an appearance in the spring, firing shots off into elongated nets that hang from the Fieldhouse ceiling.
Murphy, in his fifth year as head coach, said the girls have one day a week indoors to work on their swings while the temperatures outside remain unfriendly.
"They’ve got two nets that drop down and we probably have about six girls in each net and let them hit into the side of it," he said. "For us, it’s nice to have instead of driving everywhere everyday looking for grass."
While the high school spring sports programs may be at a disadvantage tucked within the Wasatch Back as the snow continues to fall, one would be hard-pressed to find a more beneficial facility for high school students to use.
And luckily for Green, gone are the days when he heard stories of players fielding fly balls among snowflakes in a church parking lot.
"Outside of playing in a professional dome, nobody has a better facility than we do," he said. "I don’t think the people in this community realize how lucky we actually are."