When Dunwoody High School’s lacrosse, soccer and track teams started practices for the spring season in January, they were forced to do so off campus because the school’s stadium's track and athletic field are being replaced.
The three programs are practicing at different sites and will have meets and games four miles away from campus at North DeKalb Stadium, one of five neutral site stadiums the DeKalb County School District owns. The track team is practicing at North DeKalb Stadium.
Joe Profit, whose daughter Janae is a senior track standout at Dunwoody High, said the district’s original suggestions for where the track teams could practice were “asinine.”
“Practice was supposed to start (Jan. 11),” he said. “They suggested Cross Keys High and suggested 6 a.m. practices. Chamblee High/North DeKalb Stadium has also been suggested, but several teams practice there already. And they took out the discus ring there a year or two ago when they refurbished that stadium and track.”
Dunwoody won the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Class 6A girls’ track championship in 2019, and last year all GHSA spring sports were cancelled in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019 Janae Profit won the state shot put title and placed third in the discus at the state meet.
Joe Profit, who works part-time as a track coach through USA Track and Field (USATF), said North DeKalb Stadium’s discus ring and long/triple jump area are not up to GHSA and USATF standards, so if any athletes broke state records in those events, those marks would not count in the record book.
He added the timing of the project could have been better.
“We asked them to not tear up the track now, but they insisted on tearing it up,” he said. “ … I think that things could have been done a little bit better logistically to allow all the kids in all sports to be able to participate equally and have an equal chance at success.
“All of the children are not given a fair chance to succeed. Quite frankly, my daughter as a thrower, her facilities are secure, so if that was the only reason I was doing this, I wouldn’t do it. But not all children have the same chance at success as she does. … It’s not an equitable situation as it should be.”
Noel Maloof, the district’s deputy chief operations officer, said the district is spending $2.1 million to upgrade the fields and tracks at both Dunwoody and Tucker high schools. It’s part of a plan to redevelop the district’s athletic practice facilities over the next two years.
Construction on the Dunwoody High stadium project began in November, demolition started in January, and it is expected to be completed in April or May, Maloof said.
According to news reports, the Dunwoody High School Community Association, an organization of alumni and parent boosters, is expected to raise $2 million to revitalize the school’s track/athletic field, which the football teams also use, and softball field to augment the district’s plans.
“The track and field will be replaced and upgraded to an artificial turf field and new rubberized track surface,” Maloof said. “… The booster club at Dunwoody has discussed other improvements they would like to support, but no specific plans are in place.”
She said Dunwoody High’s teams were granted access to the practice field at Peachtree Middle School, which is about 2.5 miles away, and the track team was provided access to North DeKalb Stadium “on a rotating basis for track specific practices that cannot be done on the track at Peachtree Middle school.”
Regarding the timing of the project, Maloof said, “This schedule for construction was not driven by any sport in particular. It was developed to complete the project as expeditiously as possible and follows our procurement and implementation schedule that dictates the timing of construction.”
When asked what she would say to the coaches, athletes and parents of the teams that have been displaced by this project, she said many squads will be in this situation as the district redevelops other facilities over the next two years.
“Each school will have to work with their teams to use facilities at other schools and stadiums to allow for these much-needed updates to our local practice facilities,” she said. “We are very happy to get these projects underway to provide the much-needed updates to our practice fields for our athletes.”