09/11/2015 08:00AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier
Gallery: Iberia Parish High Schools New Fields [6 Images] Click any image to expand.
By Shanna Perkins
In South Louisiana, the four seasons are winter, spring, summer and football. In the land where Friday night lights shine brightest, two local high schools, Westgate High School and New Iberia Senior High, are going to experience for the first time ever the excitement and tradition associated with home games. Loreauville High School will also receive a boost of home field pride following their field revamp.
“Westgate and New Iberia Senior High have shared Lloyd G. Porter Stadium for 17 years. This has become an issue because most football fields are used five times a year, five home games and five away games. So Lloyd G. Porter was being used 10 times a year,” explains Iberia Parish Superintendent Dale Henderson. “We made the determination that it was time for each school to have its own athletic facility. So we are taking the practice field at NISH and the new football field at Westgate and we are laying synthetic turf and building each school its own stadium.”
Home Field Advantage
Henderson explains that while NISH and Westgate gracefully shared the field at Lloyd G. Porter for 17 long years, the field didn’t always hold up to the added pressure. In addition to scheduling conflicts, keeping the field in playing condition became a struggle, especially during particularly rainy seasons. In October of 2013, voters passed a $50 million bond proposition. For each field, Loreauville, Westgate and NISH, $1 million was invested. The stadium work at Westgate and NISH cost close to $6 million.
“One of the biggest parts of these synthetic fields is the drainage system,” Henderson says emphasizing the heavy rain Acadiana can experience. “It’s a very elaborate and very sophisticated drainage system. The most important thing is to keep water off of these beautiful synthetic fields, so the drainage system is two-thirds of the expense. Water will move away from the field so efficiently that when it does rain, you will be able to host a football game on the field that afternoon.”
Another advantage of the turf fields is their versatility. The fields will be marked for both football and soccer. They will also be able to host band competitions and function as practice fields for the band, cheer teams and baseball team, should they need it.
“The field is going to be used by many student groups throughout the year,” says NISH Principal Curt Landry. “Football and soccer will be the ones that are going to primarily use it, but I believe baseball will benefit from it also. In the springtime we get a lot of rain and the baseball team can’t go out and practice. Now when we get a rain, two or three hours later baseball can at least go on the turf and do some time type of practice. As far as football, we’re very excited because for the first time in many of our lives our football home games will be out of our backdoors. We’re already thinking of new traditions that we’re going to start.”
Westgate is also excited about the field’s versatility and the new traditions it will lead to. Principal Neely Moore explains how the field will be an asset to the entire student body. “The fields are so versatile, and that’s one of the great things about turf. Anybody can go out there and practice on it and it will be great for band practice and competitions,” she explains. “During homecoming, we play a powder puff football game. Hopefully, that will be something we get to move to the new field also.”
As part of their new athletic facilities, NISH and Westgate are receiving new stadiums. Loreauville had an existing stadium. The new stadiums will feature grandstands with new bleachers for the home and visitors sides, concession stands, restrooms, ticket booths and field houses. Each of these features are intended to add convenience, but also a strong sense of community cohesion.
“Right now the students’ parents are running concession stands at a field across town. Having it all here in one location is going to be so nice,” says Landry excitedly. “Band parents can start the concession stand, start preparing for the game and at the same time, their kids can practice for a couple of hours. Then, they can walk over and have a snack before the game, all in one location.”
Having a true home field advantage for the first time in history is something that will bring a sense of pride to the respective schools. It will be something that everyone from the fans to those on the field will be able to take ownership in. Being a newer school, Westgate is especially looking forward experiencing home field pride.
“It’s definitely going to add a sense of home,” states Moore. “We’re finally going to have that home field advantage that they talk about so much in sports. Westgate is 17 years old, but in some areas, it’s kind of like we haven’t moved in yet. There isn’t that purple-and-gold spirit. I think the sense of ownership and pride this is going to bring us is going to be so beneficial.”
The heavy rain that Acadiana received this spring did slightly delay the progress. Even so, Loreauville will be able to start the football season on their new field. For NISH and Westgate, the construction is expected to be completed by mid-fall. Henderson makes a point to restate that the wait and expense will be well worth it.
“This is an investment, but it’s an investment that I think is important,” he stresses. “It’s not just about football – these are our student athletes who represent their schools, and ultimately their school district. There are many people associated with these student athletes. It’s going to be a source of community pride. This is really about having a good, safe playing surface and environment for our kids to excel and represent their respective schools and district.”