If there is one thing that has become totally obvious in the 2023 season, it has been this: Independence Stadium is no place to have a high school football game.
For the Independence Bowl, it’s great. Bring back New Kids On The Block for another concert out there if you want. Maybe even another tractor pull.
Just stop playing high school football there. Please.
Maybe something good will come from the renovation disaster that was/is Lee Hedges Stadium. The debacle forced a total reshuffle of the prep schedule that now gives us seemingly a game every Thursday and Friday night on the Fairgrounds. And that is, more people are finding out what a bad idea it is.
Without going all Norman Rockwell on you, high school football games – especially in the South – are meant to have a certain degree of atmosphere. A little slice of Americana.
Cheerleaders selling programs. Bands that cluelessly play at inopportune times while the game is going on. P.A. announcers who don’t realize they aren’t getting paid by the decibel level and say the most amazing things like “that punt fell to the ground like a dead cat.”
Nowhere in there is the idea that 50,000 empty seats are going to help things out.
So let’s run this back again. With a fully functional Lee Hedges Stadium, the idea is that Byrd and Captain Shreve would play their home games there, Huntington and Southwood would play at Independence and Woodlawn could play at either one, since it is the one school that is relatively proximate to both facility (four miles away from each).
Jerry Burton Stadium on the Northwood campus has Green Oaks as a co-tenant, BTW and the private schools all have their own stadiums, so basically you are trying to place five schools into two stadiums in any given week (though it would be extremely rare that all five would have a home game).
But Lee Hedges is a Caddo Parish facility; Independence Stadium is not. The first order of business would be to try to schedule as many games as possible for Caddo Parish schools at Lee Hedges. That’s why it is there.
Thursday is always the first option – Byrd seems to have a copyright on that – but here’s an idea for the next option that will get plenty of push back: Saturday afternoon.
Contrary to popular opinion, it is not a God-given right to watch or go to an LSU game on a Saturday. It has a number of other advantages, but here’s the biggest one: It’s not Independence Stadium.
Beyond those three playing dates each week? Probably not going out on a limb here to suggest that your nearest local private school would be happy to host a game. Yes, there would be a fee, but once again are these four words: It’s not Independence Stadium.
But there really is only one real solution and it’s one that has been talked about for years/decades – build another stadium.
The idea of building one at Southwood has been tossed around, but here’s another to consider.
Caddo Parish should enter an agreement with the City of Shreveport to buy a parcel of land at Cargill Park. If you’ve been to this facility in southwest Shreveport – very proximate to Huntington, Southwood and Woodlawn – you know there is infrastructure already in place.
You see plenty of soccer going on at the north end of Cargill, but you know what you don’t see nearly as much? Games being played on the rest of the facility. There are more than a few baseball and softball fields sitting empty and only a couple would need to be converted to make a football stadium.
It doesn’t have be the $60 million Taj Mahal that Allen (Texas) High School built. About 1,500 seats on each side would do nicely.
As they say, “the answer to all your problems is money.” Even basic stadiums don’t come cheap. But it’s worth it in more ways than dollars.
Contact JJ at firstname.lastname@example.org