Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Region's athletic facilities have many strong points

Note: This is the first time that I've blogged in my life, so bare with me. Ah, the wonders of technology.

It's no secret that high school athletic facilities across the Heritage Newspapers West region underwent major renovation and reconstruction projects in recent years. In fact, this region is just one of many throughout Michigan in which athletic facilities are evolving into multipurpose gems. With so many districts building new high schools since 1997 (Saline, Manchester, Chelsea, Dexter and Milan have all built new schools), the days of a simple ball diamond, football field or basketball court are fading.

That is not a bad thing. In fact, it's excellent that student athletes get a chance to perform in such top-of-the-line facilities with all the bells and whistles normally seen at the college or even professional level.

Saline's football stadium can leave visitors in awe. It's synthetic turf surface, tall home bleachers, massive press box and huge concession-ticket-restroom building creates a small college feel. But don't discredit Saline's gym, with its upstairs track and seating for 1,800 or its pool that can accommodate both swimming and water polo, and provides carpeted bleachers that seat fans high enough to see everything.

Manchester is the smallest district enrollment-wise, but that doesn't prevent it from having excellent facilities. The outdoor facilities create a nice mix of the "old-school" feel with modernized upgrades (brick dugouts, fully-equipped press boxes, etc.). But the gym in the new high school, opened in 2004, is the crown jewel. An upstairs track and bowl-like seating reminds fans of a smaller DeVos Fieldhouse (Hope College). Not only is Manchester's gym good enough to host several playoff games, including the Class C volleyball state quarterfinals two years ago, but it's also the annual home of Manchester's graduation exercises.

Chelsea's baseball/softball complex is a real treat for visitors with chair-back seating, huge press boxes and major-league nine-inning scoreboard. Combine with its setting among the other facilities and semi-rural area, Chelsea might have the "field of dreams." It's recently upgraded football stadium can give Saline a run for its money as it shares much of the same features including synthetic turf and seating for nearly 3,500 fans.

Dexter's gym can rival many Division III or NAIA college arenas. It's spacious, can hold over 2,000 fans, has two huge scoreboards and the upstairs track. Like Saline, Manchester, Chelsea and others, it's a multipurpose gym with fully-equipped weight rooms, wrestling rooms, gymnastics rooms and athletic offices...all in the same complex.

Milan is putting an appealing touch on its outdoor facilities, constructing a "grand entrance" that will include bricks that people can buy, a memorial to area veterans and modern bleachers for the football field. Milan's gym has been upgraded as well and recently hosted districts for boys' basketball.

While many of the West regions communities maintain an "old-time" charm, the high school athletic facilities have certainly added a nice modernized twist.



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