Gresham — Since 2015, the Gresham-Barlow School District (GBSD) has spent $1.5 million to redo the Gresham High School football and track facilities, along with tens of millions more to update the aging school into the 21st Century. Sitting squarely across from the football and track facilities sits the Gresham Softball facilities, ones that are aging and look pale in comparison to that of Gresham Baseball, who sit opposite side close to the school. Further, once dug deeper, the inequities are not only clearer but also more egregious in nature.
When you first find the softball fields at Gresham, you immediately notice that they are directly across from one another. The varsity field features a single seating installment with four rows for spectators, which has the landscape background of a beat up wall from the neighboring Les Schwab Tire Center. There are deteriorating wood dugouts for the players, which show their decay and ongoing deterioration process. For storage, there is a large storage container for field maintenance and larger equipment located outside right field, but smaller storage is inside a rusted, beat up container with a single chain lock. During my visit, I also noted the balls, bats, and other equipment being stored inside the home dugout, presumably due to lack of storage space elsewhere.
By comparison, baseball has cement dugouts with metal roofing, which are much newer and sturdier than the all-wood dugouts the girls are subject to be inside for games. For spectators, baseball has three elevated metal seating areas, all of which are not only bigger but also present a stadium style seating look at games. Out in right-center field, the boys new scoreboard is large and presents all the essentials such as current hitter, inning by inning score, and basics such as runs, hits, etc., all while being protected by netting that is connected to the pillars sitting behind it. The softball team has a bare basic scoreboard, features only basic statistics and isn’t anywhere as in-depth as the baseball team one is. It also isn’t protected like the one for the baseball team is. Also, sitting in plain sight, is a perfectly positioned, donor funded hitting facility for the baseball team, complete with signage and subsequent use by the team. Not only do the girls not have something similar, the facility is prioritized and promoted for baseball use. It serves as their clubhouse and team facility, with the girls receiving two days a week access during the season and three days during the off-season. The bullpen used by baseball was destroyed in the recent upgrades, but it is in the process of being rebuilt while softball has never had a bullpen for their facilities.
During the renovations to football and track facilities, the discus pit was moved within striking distance of the softball field and spectators. With this safety hazard in mind, softball is unable to schedule home games during home track meets, creating an unnecessary inconvenience and burden, one that isn’t dealt with by the baseball team since they sit away from the pit. According to Mr. John Koch, who oversees the school operations of the GBSD, during the renovations there was replacement of the visitor bleachers for football games. Due to this, all field events had to be relocated, with discus being placed where it is now. An individual associated with the program says that the JV softball field isn’t legal, stating that due to the varsity fence extending out into center field of the JV field, it cuts the space to the point that it isn’t legal. Mr. Koch stated that he hasn’t heard of this issue before, and that there are no records of this being an issue from the Mt. Hood Conference or OSAA.
Other issues that were brought up include the lack of parking access, restrooms, and locker rooms. To attend games, individuals must go through the baseball fields in order to access the fields, as there is no direct connection between them and the school parking. Furthermore, there is limited street parking along Kelly Ave, which borders the JV softball field. This becomes a challenge for those who face mobility restrictions, as they face long walking in active areas and can be a discouraging factor for them to attend games. There are removable restrooms placed between the JV baseball and Varsity softball fields, which are unlocked during the season but locked during the off-season. The closest restrooms after the removable ones are the ones located at the football field, located on the furthest side from the facilities. There are also no areas for the girls to change on game day once they arrive at the school, baseball can just change at the team facility right next to the field.
The varsity field is not only in rough shape, but according to sources, it is in dangerous shape for the girls. The dirt needs resurfacing, with sources saying it is as rough as concrete and unable to withstand any type of significant moisture without the presence of standing water. Other claims include large divots across the field, resulting in frequent sprained ankles and a looming serious injury for an unsuspecting player. The infield reportedly also has an infield lip, which creates a tripping hazard for players. According to Mr. Koch, there haven’t been any patterns of ankle injuries reported by the athletic training staff, and that the district would be aware of any such patterns. When asked about the potential Title IX and ADA violations, Mr. Koch stated that the SBSD faced a Title IX and ADA Audit in 2008-09 and 2011-12 respectively. According to him, any concern or violation in the reports were addressed in the school bond measure and subsequent upgrades. However, throughout the course of the renovations, new violations can certainly pop up with the many moving parts involved in such a large overhaul. Further, Mr. Koch also discussed the small size of the campus, stating it is either the smallest or one of the smallest in 6A, which complicates many things on the campus.
Regardless of the campus size, Title IX is Title IX, non-flexible even in circumstances of smaller spaces to utilize. In the federal statues, they address the many factors of equal opportunities, which include: Scheduling of games and practice time, provision of locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities, provision of medical and training facilities and services, and publicity among other things. While without formal confirmation it is debatable, you cannot make a hard argument to say that a Title IX isn’t in violation when softball doesn’t have a locker room, equitable practice opportunity with similar facilities, is forced to schedule home games around track meets because of a relocated discus area, and is relegated to storage, seating, and dugouts that are smaller and older to that of their baseball counterparts. These are not only unnecessary burdens, but they are simply illegally placed upon the softball program while baseball has none of the issues. Equity and equality is an ongoing fight, and just like their Barlow counterparts, the fight for it is just getting underway in the public ring with the SBSD.