When the CIF announced its decision to delay fall sports until the start of 2021, it set off a domino effect across the California prep sports world. Every high school will face an unprecedented set of challenges in the year ahead, but some will have issues that are a little more unique. At Lakewood High, the postponement of fall sports until January 2021 creates an unforeseen challenge for the Lancers: they won’t have a field to play on.
As renovations to Long Beach’s high school sports facilities continue, Lakewood is scheduled to begin construction on its football field and track in early January, just as football season is now scheduled to begin. That means the Lancers will need to get a bit creative with field space to accommodate its sports teams in a condensed athletic year.
Most of Lakewood’s home football games will be played at Millikan High–where the field is currently being resurfaced–except for the first and last games of the regular season. In order to give the Rams the chance to be the first team to play on their new field, Lakewood will utilize Wilson High’s turf field for the season opener against Mayfair on January 8. In the final week of the season, on March 12, the Lancers will return to Wilson for their game against Poly since Millikan plays at home that night.
“From the field standpoint, we practice on the baseball field anyway so it won’t affect our practice,” said Lancers head football coach Scott Meyer. “Our Athletic Director Mike Wadley has already done a great job on the varsity front. The lower levels might be trickier and some of those might be pushed to evening games depending on when we play, but Wadley was great and he was all over it.”
Wadley said the working relationship among the league’s athletic directors has been a real plus, helping find solutions in what will undoubtedly be a challenging year. Even with the headaches forthcoming, he’s looking at the bright side of the situation.
“The guys are going to get to play on turf fields all year except for going to Jordan, so that’s a good thing,” Wadley said. “And it will be great for playoffs since we’re used to playing everywhere else and it won’t matter where we go.”
Meyer has also kept things upbeat with his team, knowing there are long-term benefits that will outweigh the challenges in 2021.
“The great thing is we’ll have a brand new field and track,” Meyer stated. “Where we play at this point is really not a big deal at all. We’ll be happy to be playing and hopefully we’ll have fans, but even if we don’t, I think the most important thing is for high school athletes to have the chance to get out there and compete. Especially for the seniors.”
As the new fall season comes to an end and the spring portion of the adjusted schedule gets underway, there will be battles for field space among the various programs. With the boys’ and girls’ soccer programs, plus lacrosse, track and field, baseball and softball preparing for their seasons, and football still competing, the transition period between the two seasons will prove challenging.
“It’s going to be a little different for soccer because we don’t have anywhere to play our games right now,” Wadley stated. “All our league games are stacked, and we have nowhere to play our matches, but now you’ll have baseball and softball in season. But we’ll figure it out. We all have to be understanding of what’s going on, and no one team can dominate the gym or the field.”
Wadley has mentioned looking for additional field space at Bancroft Middle School, Long Beach City College, and Long Beach State, but there are budget concerns to reckon with as well. With the strong possibility that fans won’t be able to attend high school sporting events this coming year, there could be a substantial amount of lost revenue for high school athletic departments. When you add possible rental fees on top of that, it adds an extra layer of concern for Wadley and the Lancers.
“I’m hoping we have fans, especially for football. It’s such a needed resource monetary-wise for athletic programs,” Wadley admitted. “We’re in a very unique year, and hopefully this never ever happens again in the world. We’ll be able to get through this, but we’re going to have to put some stuff down and make it work. Everybody involved, including myself, we all have to make sure we’re giving back to the school to try to keep our head above water.”