The Current Reynolds High School Stadium Proposal
On October 3, 2017, Home Field Advantage (HFA) hosted their first public, drop-in meeting for a project to build a football stadium to serve R. J. Reynolds High School on public land adjacent to Wiley Middle School and in Hanes Park. Limited notification of the meeting was sent to neighbors in the surrounding area advising them of the meeting, but a small group of West End and West Highlands residents attended the session. Observations and concerns expressed by this small group are summarized as follows.
Concerns related to the public, drop-in meeting:
- There was little effort to notify and inform neighbors, who will be directly affected by the proposed stadium,.
- Postcards were mailed to a very limited number of residents in adjacent neighborhoods; most were unaware of the meeting.
- Postcards were mailed only 1 week before the meeting leaving little time for neighbors to make plans to attend.
- The only online notification was posted to social media on the day of the meeting and only 2 hours before it was to start.
- The format of the drop-in session was to show the community a draft plan but not engage people or solicit input.
- There was no formal means to register concerns and comments during the session. Stimmel staff were unprepared to take note of questions, comments and concerns.
- There has been no post-meeting soliciting of comments or feedback.
Concerns related to the development of the proposed plan:
- Neighbors most directly affected by the proposed construction have previously presented comments and feedback to HFA planning process. The presented draft plan and drawings reflected little consideration of these concerns.
- The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WSFCS) initially assuaged public concerns by issuing a strict set of project contingencies when approving HFA to commence fundraising. For example, the WSFCS stipulated that HFA must have all funds in the bank for their project to proceed. We were informed that HFA has not met their fundraising goals to build a stadium, yet construction is being proposed.
- When neighbors present our concerns to WSFCS, we are stonewalled by the insistence the stadium is not a school project but is being handled by a private group when in fact there is collaboration going on between HFA and WSFCS.
- The ‘Phase 1’ plan was presented at the drop-in meeting for review, yet no information was provided about subsequent phases. How can the community endorse a plan that is full of ‘to be determined’ components?
- To act in the community’s best interest, any public structure impacting Hanes Park, historic buildings built in complement with the park, and our public schools should proceed through public process and not be managed by a private group guided by its special interests.
Specific concerns about the proposed plan:
Hanes Park, our downtown public greenspace, has been a majestic centerpiece of our community for almost a century. Both Reynolds High School and Wiley School were integral components of the original plan designed to orient towards the park center and serving as backdrops for sweeping park and neighborhood vistas. Winston Salem citizens have enjoyed the grandeur of our integrated park and school grounds for generations. It is a unique site that demands special consideration and protection from projects that may be well intentioned but would deface this precious gift.
We have presented an extensive list of community concerns in a petition to the School Board, through public process in School Board meetings, in private meetings with the School Board, on the Save Hanes Park website, in various individual letters to the editor of the Winston Salem Journal and in private conversations. These concerns remain. The following are presented in addendum and are specific to the presentation given on October 3.
- Building Phases. Phase I in absence of Phase II and III is an inadequate description of the entire project. Complete plans were not posted on HFA’s website. Only when later requested were all three phase plans provided by WSFCS to neighborhood representatives.
- Costs We are concerned that such an ambitious project requiring the demolition of public buildings, the re-grading of public land, and the costly relocation of public school programming is proceeding without funding in place. The original proposal did not include public funds.
- Changes in gradation. Complete consideration should be made to:
- the change in elevation between the proposed stadium and Hanes Park as viewed from the park. ;
- any retaining walls, fences and bleachers forming barriers between the Park and stadium; and
- the fencing in front of Wiley which will obstruct and adversely affect views from the park, school and stadium;
- the narrow canyon that will be created between tennis court fencing and the stadium; and
- the height of any signage, lighting fixtures, etc.
- Rainwater drainage The plan did not indicate the impact to Hanes Park of rainwater run-off, particularly the lower fields bordering the creek. Will these areas become flooded or soggy following significant rainfall?
- Sound Systems and Signage Inadequate information of these plans was provided. How will they adversely affect the surrounding area and neighborhoods?
- Fencing in front of Wiley Middle School
- We are opposed to the addition of fencing in front of our historic school because it defaces the school façade.
- We are concerned that similar secondary changes outside the stadium footprint may be planned but have not been presented to the public.
What we would like to see:
- A complete presentation including all building phases with seat counts and parking plans.
- A financial plan indicating how building phases, cost contingencies such as the relocation of Wiley health and fitness programming, and future facility maintenance is to be funded.
- A more comprehensive rainwater plan that indicates the impact to Hanes Park.
- A complete presentation that includes information about any planned signage, scoreboards, sound systems, lighting systems, traffic and parking management, etc.
- Details on the fencing to be used around Wiley School with special attention to the vistas to and from Wiley, the stadium and Hanes Park and the appropriateness for a historic building. Please show photos or renderings of barriers with similar material, height and proximity in front of other historic buildings as examples.
- Should the stadium fundraising continue, we request that WSFCS act as a mediator, engaging in genuine dialogue with the community, listening to our concerns, and acting to ensure that our public park and neighboring properties are being thoughtfully considered throughout the planning process.