Sports impact will set in this summer

The McNary softball program will have to do away with the brand new dugouts they installed two years ago as they will begin playing on their new field by Saint Edward Catholic Church in 2021. (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings)

With construction on the expansion of McNary High School getting set to take place this summer, the protocol for Celtic sports — as well as other Keizer athletic programs — will be a little bit different over the course of the upcoming year.

While all the short-term plans haven’t been set in stone yet, McNary athletic director Scott Gragg is confident of the game plan that the school is putting into place.

“We’re going to be impacted and there’s going to be inconveniences, but we feel like we identified the gaps of where we need to put people,” Gragg said.

The softball and soccer fields, which are currently in the space next to Chemawa Road, are being moved to the purchased space by Saint Edward Catholic Church to make room for the school expansion that will include 14 new classrooms.

Phase 1 of the three-phase construction process will begin this June, meaning that the McNary gym will be completely off-limits as it will be going through seismic upgrades, meaning that the McNary summer volleyball and basketball programs will have to find other options for practices, camps and games — both summer programs typically end in late-June.

While programs directly related to McNary High School will have access to the football and baseball fields this summer, the campus will likely not be available to outside groups.

“Nothing is really finalized, but the general message is that outside user groups for the time being, until we figure out all our bases covered, they’re going to have to find another place for a facility,” Gragg said.

Another big question mark over the summer is access to the current weight room.

While the current weight room is being demolished in favor of a bigger, more open space, athletic programs’ access to the current facility, and when the new one will be completed, is still unclear.

The fall sports programs (i.e. football, volleyball, boys soccer, girls soccer, cross country) would be affected the most if the weight room is unavailable this summer.

“We don’t know if we’re going to be without a weight room for a month or a week or all summer. Those are the things that we’re still working on,” Gragg said.

By the time Phase 2 comes around in September, there will portable classrooms all over the grass field by Chemawa Road, which will have its greatest impact on the boys and girls soccer programs — both programs hold practices and play their non-varsity games in that area.

“If any sport is being impacted the most, I would say that soccer probably is,” Gragg said. “While they’ll still play the majority of varsity games at the (football) stadium like they always have, a full-sized grass practice field on McNary’s campus will be difficult to find.”

Gragg is expecting that McNary won’t have a grass field for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, which means that both boys and girls soccer programs will have to find different places to practice and play games for their non-varsity teams.

“We need a plan for soccer, we just don’t know what that is yet,” Gragg said.

McNary boys soccer coach Miguel Camarena acknowledged that Whiteaker Middle School might be a destination for his program next season, but he knows that it’s not going to be easy.

“It is going to be a challenge no doubt about it, but we are going to make this work,” Camarena said. “The biggest challenges for us is going to be transportation, location and space for our boys soccer players.”

“Another issue is to figure out where are we going to store soccer equipment for practices and games.”

Despite the hassle that the next two seasons will be bring, both Camarena and McNary girls soccer coach AJ Nash, feel like they are in good hands with McNary administration.

“We do have great leadership within our athletic department so I am confident that, although we will feel the change, the impact will be limited and our programs will not suffer because of it,” Nash said.

Camarena also commented: “In the long run, the expansion will be positive.”

Phase 2 will start this fall and go into Spring 2020. While there is scheduled to be a JV softball field over in the purchased St. Edward space by that time, the Celtics varsity softball team will remain in their current space for one last season — with the portable classrooms just beyond the home run fence.

The new varsity softball field is scheduled to be ready in Spring 2021.

“We’re good either way. As long as we have a place to play and can compete at a high level,” McNary softball coach Kevin Wise said.

While the demolition of the existing tennis courts will take place in Phase 1 this summer, the new courts are scheduled to be ready next tennis season — which will be located near Chemawa Road.

“I am excited that we will get newly constructed tennis courts,” McNary girls tennis coach Sean Smith said. “I have great support from the school and community and foresee the program getting stronger every year.”

The plan is for Phase 3 to take place during summer of 2020 and be mostly completed by the time the fall rolls around. But with a project this substantial, schedules could very well change.

“I always like to remind folks that schedules are expected to change,” said Karma Krause, who is a capital projects public engagement specialist with the school district.

“We’re not ready to make firm guarantees on anything until we have full, solid plans.”

While the McNary athletic program isn’t gaining much in terms of square footage, Gragg believes that these changes will be very beneficial to the school and the city of Keizer.

“There are so many benefits to having these upgrades,” Gragg said. “Not only for athletics, but everything in general.”

“Having the majority of our athletics in one space makes things convenient as well.”