I applaud new OPRF Athletic Director Nicole Ebsen’s review of athletics resources and spaces, and her commitment to ensure a more equitable use of spaces in the future. The perception of female athletes and coaches has been that practice times and spaces have not been fairly shared between men’s and women’s sports teams. AD Ebsen brings a new perspective and refreshing candor to the job. She will be an impactful leader.
In truth, though, allocating athletics spaces at OPRF is a far more difficult job than it should be because the spaces themselves do not meet the needs of students, teams, and classes in the 21st century.
The field house is an especially glaring example. Despite its enormous footprint and horrendously expensive maintenance costs, it no longer serves any activity or team well. One might assume the field house met the needs of the indoor track team, a no-cut sport with a large number of students. But the track itself is too short and too square for safe running or competition. When a wrestling meet or other competition conflicts, the indoor track team either cannot practice, or runs in unsafe traffic-jam conditions. The stands are unsafe and are not ADA compliant. The field house bathrooms are all but unusable.
From the outside, the field house is still a magnificent old building. But on the inside — the important part, the place where students are just trying to learn and be the best athletes they can be — the field house is decades past its useful life. It actively inhibits student success.
Ebsen’s allocation of practice spaces is no easier in the other gyms, weight room, locker facilities, multipurpose rooms, and outdoor fields, because few of these are configured for modern needs. While that’s not surprising for 100-year-old facilities, it’s disappointing for a high school and a community that proudly believes in “those things that are best.”
OPRF’s athletic director wants to help all athletes. I hope the District 200 school board will do the right thing, and vote to create modern, safe, and equitable PE and athletics spaces for all.