The R. J. Reynolds High School Stadium - Part 1: The Conflict
It’s a sensitive subject (to say the least) for many residents in the West Highlands neighborhood. The construction of a stadium for R.J. Reynolds high school adjacent to Hanes Park has been at the center of several arguments between neighbors for over 6 years. What’s at stake? The answer to that question depends on whom you ask.
According to Stan Dean, one of the spokespeople of Home Field Advantage, a 501(c)(3) organization whose sole purpose is the fundraising and construction of the stadium, having such space next to the school would work, among other things, as an equalizer.
“By having practices and games off campus, we are denying some of our student those opportunities. Some of our students do have transportation, other have transportation issues,” explained Dean.
But it doesn’t take much effort to find opposing arguments. As Radio 101 reporter Hugh Bray learned, a quick walk around the West Highlands neighborhood is enough to find those who are against the construction of the park. Among the detractors is Save Hanes Park, a group of neighbors who oppose the proposed construction site. John Coyne is one of the members of Save Hanes Park and according to him, at the core of this conflict is what Hanes Park means to those who live around it.
“It is school property, but it’s right next to the park. It’d have a negative impact. The park alone has about 40,000 users a year. It sees a lot of events, which is great… but I think it really changes the dynamic of the park when we introduce the stadium,” explained Coyne.
As stated on the Save Hanes Park website, a stadium at the proposed location would increase the amount of traffic in the area, reduce the available green space and block general public access to the park, among other concerns.
Kathryn Spanos is the president of Home Field Advantage. According to her, the proposed stadium would actually take care of several of the issues brought up by Saves Hanes Park, like the destruction of the park vistas.
“We have gone to great lengths because we understand the history and we want it to be something that looks like it was always there,” explained Spanos.
But the explanations fall short for some neighbors and members of Save Hanes Park.
“Right now school property and park property are open. There’s a kind of sense of openness. Putting a landscape certainly makes it look more attractive, but it doesn’t take away the fact that people can’t access the place and that’s not what it was meant to be,” Coyne responded when asked about the possibility of a stadium designed to “fit” the current landscape of the park.
With the approval of the Winston-Salem Forsyth County school board of the plans for the construction of the stadium last October, the goal of Home Field Advantage seems closer than ever. That is if they are able to raise the necessary funds for the construction. The fight over the stadium, however, is far from over and a big part of the conflict seems to hinge on the 47 acres of land between Northwest Boulevard, Hawthorne Rd and West End Boulevard: Hanes Park.
In the second episode of the series, Radio 101 reporter Hugh Bray goes back into the history of Hanes Park to try to decipher how this conflict began.