By Kurt Johnson
Progress is a wonderful thing, except when you’re the one left behind, or the one trampled upon while others move forward.
Nearly six years ago, my family moved from California to Provo when my daughter was entering the ninth grade. We didn’t know much about Utah’s high school open enrollment nor did we know which schools were on top in her best sport, softball.
She enrolled at the high school our new neighbors attended, Timpview, and began working out with the softball team during the fall. Coming from a place in California where participation was off the charts in youth baseball and softball programs, we were a bit surprised that Provo was not so keen on those sports.
Other areas of Utah County and elsewhere in the state, where facilities are more plentiful and accessible, are more like what we expected, but the overall lack of interest in this city was a rude awakening for her. Perhaps the famous line from one of my favorite movies is very true – “If you build it, he will come.” The lack of softball and baseball diamonds certainly contributes to the level of interest.
That first Timpview team had a pretty good pitcher and a few solid seniors, but what followed was the beginning of a long rebuilding process that still continues today. Thunderbird head coach Debbie Dodds, who returned from College of Southern Idaho to take over the program for that rebuild, has done an amazing job creating a positive environment for these young ladies, despite some difficult results on the scoreboard. This year, 15 freshman came out, many of whom had never played softball before, and the program is gaining some momentum.
Unfortunately, it appears the Timpview High softball program is set to take another huge hit, seemingly left behind by the lack of attention it received while the Provo School District moved forward with its grandiose construction plans.
New School Construction
In 2014, a bond was passed to rebuild five Provo schools. I have read numerous statements from school, school board and Provo city officials expressing the need to meet the needs of all of its students.
The announcement that, instead of rebuilding on the current location, Provo High would be rebuilt on a larger piece of property already owned by the school district, coupled with the recent announcement that the current Provo High site has been sold to Brigham Young University for $25 million particularly caught my attention.
How does all of that impact Timpview softball?
One of the schools set to be rebuilt, beginning this summer, is Edgemont Elementary, across the street from Timpview. Without a softball field to call its own to begin with, the Thunderbird softball program has done its best to make the field at Edgemont Elementary its home turf. It’s been hard to do so when you consider Coach Dodds and her softball family are working with what is essentially an elementary school kickball field.
When construction begins, the new version of Edgemont Elementary will go up on the site where that field currently sits, leaving Timpview with no field at all.
Over the last five years, since Coach Dodds came back to coach at Timpview, there has been on-again, off-again chatter about building a softball field on the open grass area just down the hill from the Timpview High baseball field. The school district, however, apparently does not own that piece of land.
Now, with the wrecking ball ready to drop and a sense of urgency finally present, it seems that negotiations to secure that land went south in some sort of bureaucratic nightmare. It is Provo City land or does it belong to the state? I’d love to have someone share the specifics on that, but the bottom line is that it seems some bureaucrats somewhere were unable to figure out a way to work things out so a softball field could be saved.
Adding to my confusion is the fact that it sounds like funds have been secured through private means, and through the work of Timpview softball, to handle much of the cost of building the actual field. It’s all about finding a piece of land and that spot is the lone possibility “on campus.”
The Little Details
It seems that while the powers that be worked diligently on every detail of their plan to rebuild these five schools, right down to being politically correct in the way bathrooms would be designed at the new Provo High School, no one thought to make sure they took care of the softball field issue their progress was creating at Timpview High School. Seems like we’ve been here before when a community center plan took away Provo High’s baseball field.
Between the bond measure and the deal with BYU to sell off the Provo High property, am I expecting too much that someone would have thought to solve this before it reached the last minute? The Timpview administration? The district?
Last summer at Timpview High School, they found a way to resurface the football field (again) and to tear down and rebuild their tennis courts. So far, finding a solution for a softball field has eluded everyone and I am not sure when any of us turn for answers or a solution.
I don’t know who is to blame, or if there is even any particular group that deserves criticism for this, but I do believe that there are good people in place that should be able to find a solution. For some reason, that has not yet happened but it is my hope that a better solution than what is currently being suggested can be uncovered.
A Community Solution
In my mind the issue goes even deeper than the Timpview High softball program. I raised my kids with a lot of baseball and softball in the mix. It’s not because we were trying to get them college scholarships or professional contracts, but because it’s not difficult for parents to go out to the diamond with their kids and “have a catch.”
I live in the neighborhood and drive by the Edgemont field often. I see fathers and mothers out banging ground balls to their kids all day long on a Saturday. I have seen youth baseball teams running practice on that field. It’s not just Timpview softball that benefits, but the entire community.
Sadly for me, at least, it is one of the few patches of infield dirt on the north side of the city of Provo. Perhaps this is the chance for the Provo School District and the City of Provo to join forces and do something for the community at large – find a way to get a softball field or even a couple of them on the north side of town. Add a baseball field to the mix and we will be even more blessed.
Use the land that will be available when the old Edgemont Elementary is torn down to cut the red tape on the use of the piece of ground near the Timpview baseball field. Can’t we work out some kind of land swap with whatever bureaucrats are blocking that plan and build a field now right there on the Timpview campus?
What about the piece of land at about 3900 North, between Timpview Drive and Canyon Road? Can something be done there to replace the lovely selection of tall grass and weeds currently enjoying that space?
The School Bus Solution
For now, the plan for Timpview softball seems to be to have the T-Birds bussed to Provo High’s fields to share them with the Bulldogs. Not sure anyone outside the two softball programs cares to explain how that will work for practice time, but even that is a temporary solution at best because that land now belongs to BYU and as of 2018, who knows what happens there. Certainly, the school district and the city will be down two more softball fields.
This is what I do know.
I am a personal witness to the energy Coach Dodds has expended in her efforts to build a youth softball program to feed the high school softball team and in her work to strengthen the high school program. I know how much of a labor love that has been for her and for others in trying to get something special happening there.
And something special has happened in the lives of the girls who have had the chance to associate with that program. It is not about winning state championships but about helping young girls through what can be a difficult time in their lives.
She has run camps and clinics and summer programs for kids inside and outside the Timpview community. This summer there will be none of that because there is no field on which to make it all happen.
When you start bussing teams to someone else’s field for temporary solutions, coaches leave. Programs die. And for me personally, that would be a sad thing to watch. My daughter was a fantastic softball player (if I do say so myself) who didn’t win a lot of games in her time at Timpview, but she had amazing life-changing experiences that I hope many more young ladies will have the chance to experience.
I openly admit that this is a highly personal topic for me and that perhaps most people would just shrug their shoulders and say “so what?” If Shoeless Joe Jackson had called to me out of a cornfield and asked me to rip out my cash crop to build a baseball field so I could have a catch with my dad or with my sons or my daughter, I would have done it.
I appreciate what sports can be when they are a positive experience for parents and kids, and I have a particular tie to this sport and to this program. I really hope the talented folks who are in position to fix this will find a way to do so, and soon.
If you are someone who can help them, I urge you to reach out to the school district and the city and offer your expertise and input.