September 29, 2010
There are few things more cherished in high school sports than a home-field advantage. Unfortunately, one New York high school football program will never know what that edge is like because of one of the most archaic reasons possible: When Herbert H. Lehman High School was built in 1972, the New York City Board of Education gave it an 80-yard football field rather than the conventional 100-yard version. Ever since, the team has been forced to play all of its games on the road, and there's no end in sight.
"It's been rough -- we can't take pride in this field," David White, a Lehman junior, told the New York Daily News. "Everyone has their home -- we don't."
While it might seem impossible for the situation to get more embarrassing, it does. According to the Daily News, the Department of Education's School Construction Authority has $2.8 million set aside for a new field at Lehman High, yet no expansion is planned. Instead, the money will go toward a new scoreboard, lighting and even new turf, but only 80 yards of it.
Now school administrators are scrambling to try to purchase lots that surround the school currently owned by two separate property developers, before construction on the new complex begins in November. According to the Daily News, that land is currently leased to New York City as a storage facility for repossessed cars, but officials are optimistic that it could be used for a full-length football field.
Why doesn't the school have any land to expand into? Lehman school staff members claim the city sold off all the land surrounding the school after its construction was completed in 1972. Eventually, the lot adjoining the end of the current field was bought by a White Castle burger joint.
"It's really a stressful situation," Lehman athletic director Diane Hamilton told the Daily News. "It's just unfair to the kids."
Of course, the irony of the situation is that Lehman's football program has been helping dig that budget shortfall across the years, requiring an extra $1,800 annually to bus to all their extra road games. While the cost has clearly been affected by some inflation, if it had cost Lehman an extra $1,800 each year since 1972, that would make up $57,000 of the budget shortfall keeping the extra land beyond Lehman High's grasp.
When you factor in additional revenue lost from ticket sales and concessions, it's fair to assume that Lehman may have missed out on more than $100,000 worth of revenue that could have closed the gap between Lehman's budget and the property costs keeping its football field out of reach.
That leaves the program's coaches and players to sit back and wonder when they might get to experience their own home-field advantage. While none are holding their breath, all are willing to plead their team's case.
[Instant replay: Overtime thrills and in-state spills]
"We have good kids that work really hard -- they use football to stay off the streets," Lehman football coach Michael Saunds told the Daily News. "But we can never practice a full game -- we're restricted."