Richmond Senior High’s softball team will play on the same field this year, though it will feel like a new field after $100,000 was spent to upgrade it this winter.
Lights are still in the works, but the school’s softball field already has bleachers, a scoreboard and an outfield wall, and 2011 squad hopefuls were trying out the new facilities and equipment Thursday for offseason conditioning.
The upgrades were made in response to allegations of gender discrimination in the high school’s athletic department, which the school district settled in 2010.
One returning junior said she thinks this season could be special for the Lady Raiders with the upgrades at play.
“It’s really nice - I love having the bleachers for people to watch us,” Kayla Carroll remarked. “I feel like we’ll work harder because we have a nicer facility, and there will be more people there to watch us.”
The facility upgrades came after a Title IX complaint was lodged against the school alleging disparities between athletic programs for boys and those for girls.
Among the allegations were a disparity in facilities, equipment and advertising for games, and that the Raider football team received preference to use the softball field for its practice sessions.
Richmond Senior was the only team in its conference that didn’t have lights for softball games, and it wasn’t unprecedented for games to be called for darkness, while they had to begin earlier than games at other schools.
The federal Department of Education reached an agreement with school district administrators that a new field would be built in phases, with lights coming in the second phase by the 2012 season.
Richmond Senior Head Softball Coach Wendy Wallace pointed out that despite the obstacles the program has faced over the years, it has had much success and has sent many of its players on to the collegiate ranks.
She thinks the facility and equipment upgrades could serve as motivation for the team to raise the bar even higher in its expectations.
“I hope so,” Wallace said. “You look better, you play better. That’s what they say, isn’t it? I feel like we’ve always had a successful program here, and I hope we can continue to build and have the same success in the future.”
She said the upgrades are “above and beyond anything I would’ve asked for, or could have expected.”
“We feel really good about the new softball field at the high school, and we think we finally have the kind of facility those girls deserve out there,” Richmond County Schools Superintendent Dr. George Norris said.
School Board Chairman Wiley Mabe said the necessary electrical infrastructure has been already been laid for the lights, which were estimated to cost about $75,000 last summer. Softball season is set to kick-off with a scrimmage at Union Pines Feb. 22, and the team will host their first game Feb. 24 when Anson County High comes to Rockingham.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 15, or by e-mail at email@example.com.