A new or rebuilt football field can be a uniting point for a community.
Repeat that effort over and over and over, at least 18 times, in a rural, spread-out state like Wyoming, and we not only have uniting points for communities but a trend that shows no signs of slowing.
Since 2007, 18 of Wyoming’s 65 high school football programs (64 plus one co-op) have had new or rebuilt facilities constructed. Nine stadiums have had lights added since 2009. And 21 programs statewide now have artificial turf.
Some are obvious: New six-man programs at Kaycee, Snake River and Farson (all 2009), St. Stephens (2011) and Rock River (2014, field built in 2012) all necessitated new facilities, as did the starting of Class 4A program Cheyenne South (2011).
But several other longstanding programs opened new facilities in new locations in the past 10 years: Cheyenne East and Kemmerer in 2014; Powell in 2012; Riverton in 2011; Rocky Mountain in 2010; Torrington and Upton in 2009; Buffalo and Saratoga in 2007.
In addition, several programs built basically new stadiums on top of their old facilities. Burns opened its new facility in 2015. Prior to that, Big Piney did so in 2014 and Big Horn in 2011.
Also, a handful of schools have added lights in the past 10 years. Moorcroft and Tongue River added lights for the 2015 season; prior to that, Big Horn and Kemmerer added lights in 2014 with their new facilities; Saratoga in 2012; Rocky Mountain in 2011; Upton and Pinedale in 2009; and Wind River in 2006 (damaged by wind but rebuilt for 2009).
With all these changes, only 15 Wyoming high school football fields are without lights in 2015. Nine of those 15 programs are in the six-man classification; the six 11-man programs without lights are Big Piney, Burlington, Cokeville, Lyman, Mountain View and Sundance. (Burlington will move to six-man in 2016.)
And, of course, let’s not forget that 21 schools now have an artificial surface, the bulk of those installed in the past decade. Southeast, which added a turf surface this summer, was Wyoming’s No. 21. Many of those updates, too, came with other cosmetic updates at several locations — things like new track surfaces, new jumping pits, new lights, new bleachers or new walkways were also a part of several of those projects.
For the future? Well, Laramie is building a new high school with a new stadium, set to open in the fall of 2016. Sundance is building a new elementary school on top of its current football field, which means that program, too, will need a new stadium at some point. Dubois, too, is set to open a new stadium next fall near its new school.
The list of stadiums that haven’t seen been moved, rebuilt or overhauled (artificial turf or light installation) in the past decade is pretty short: Evanston, Gillette and Kelly Walsh in 4A; Lander, Rawlins and Worland in 3A; Newcastle, Thermopolis, Wheatland, Wright, Greybull, Lovell, Lyman and Mountain View in 2A; Lingle, Pine Bluffs, Burlington, Cokeville, Riverside, Shoshoni and Wyoming Indian in 1A 11-man; and Guernsey, Hanna, Hulett, Midwest, NSI, Meeteetse and Ten Sleep in 1A six-man. That’s 28 of 65 — less than half. And many of these stadiums have had new grass, new bleachers or other new facilities added in the past decade without the work being a complete refurbishment of the entire stadium. (Although, admittedly, at some of these places, new bleachers alone is a refurbishment of the entire stadium.)
In short: Not many football fields in the state look like they did 10 years ago.
What changes have you seen in your community’s high school football stadium the past 10 years? Post a comment below if I’m missing something!