In just three weeks, the Stillwater High softball team will play its home opener for the 2020 season, and possibly without a new scoreboard for which the money was rounded up nine months ago.
The SHS softball team raised a portion of the funds last year before a large donation came in that was believed to be enough to replace the current scoreboard at Little Couch Park that was donated from Oklahoma State University in the late ’90s.
“There were a lot of bumps in the road in making this come to fruition,” SHS athletic director Tucker Barnard said. “I think it would be pretty clear to anyone who looked at it that there’s not really any huge gaps in a timeline where it just wasn’t being dealt with. There were a lot of things that went down that were not under anybody’s control that made the process take a little longer than what we would have liked. I don’t think there are any gaps in that timeline that would constitute any negligence or lack of trying for the program and what they want to get done.”
After a local business, Aladen Carpet Cleaning and Restoration, told the booster club it would give $10,000 toward the scoreboard, it was announced at the team’s banquet following the 2019 season. SHS softball booster club president Angela Morgan thought the $10,000 would be enough when added with the previously raised $6,000 based on the quote she was given.
The first funds were raised by the SHS players. They were each asked to get 10 donations of $10 for a 100-inning game that was played last year. Those donations combined with funds raised at the event brought in around $6,000.
Then Aladen Carpet Cleaning said it would donate the remaining $10,000. The owners of the company have two daughters in the junior high softball program.
“Our current scoreboard has Chris’ University Spirit on it,” Morgan said. “A booster club member approached the couple and said if they would give us $10,000, we would put their name – like Chris’ University Spirit – on the scoreboard, so it would be sponsored by Aladen Carpet Cleaning Company.
“We do not have official guidelines for booster clubs in Stillwater. We have asked multiple times and every time we’ve asked, they say they’re working on them. I understand that, but it’s really hard to know if you’re in violation if no one has ever provided us with any kind of guidelines or rules. So, we probably should have gone to the school first, but I’ll also defend us by saying we have so many maintenance needs at our facility, we thought there is no way the school is going to help us with the scoreboard because we can’t even get the AC fixed in the locker room or the concession stand.”
This became the first bump in a long road of issues that’s led to frustration from booster club members, parents and players in the program. Other issues include the original salesman announcing his retirement three days before he left Daktronics, the original price quote wasn’t accurate and the coronvirus pandemic shut down a lot of work across the country.
Yet, it all goes back to the beginning. The booster club wanted to improve the old scoreboard at the field. Morgan said they can’t buy light bulbs or parts for the scoreboard any longer.
She didn’t know there would be an issue with allowing Aladen Carpet Cleaning its name on the scoreboard as the sponsor because it was willing to give such a large sum of money.
“I’m very much a grown woman and I’ll take ownership that maybe we should have went to the school first, but we also hadn’t received any guidelines on what we could or couldn’t do,” Morgan said. “We probably should have done that first.”
Barnard said the issue with the money given toward a scoreboard is there are signage policies in place. He also said money given to the district can be tricky.
That issue came up when money was given to install artificial turf infields at the SHS baseball and softball fields. The turf was eventually added, but it wasn’t a simple process, much the same as the softball scoreboard.
“When you’re trying to make a donation, there is a lot of rules and guidelines to how we go about that process,” Barnard said. “We’ve encountered these problems before, but they’re not really problems as much as procedures. Technically, if you were to make a large donation to Stillwater Schools for a specific purpose, we can’t really guarantee that. We could call it our intention to use that money for that purpose, but there are state laws and school finance laws that aren’t really my area of expertise, but we do have people in the district where that is their area of expertise. When we have those kinds of situations, we to kind of defer to those people.
“… Anybody who was involved in that directly would know that it feels frustrating when you’re in the middle of it. I remember on the turf project some of the donors being frustrated that they were trying to give us a bunch of money. Maybe at times, it felt to them like we were unwilling or unable to take it and that wasn’t the case. There are a lot of I’s to dot and T’s to cross to make sure that you’re doing everything the right way.”
As the process dragged on, the frustration from the softball side of things increased. It was recently spiked by the new scoreboard installed at Pioneer Stadium.
The perception became that the SHS football team, which is coached by Barnard, was being treated better than the softball program. It’s resulted in emails and social media posts filled with frustration.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow when we have approval in March that everything is happening and then you see a football scoreboard going up with no issues,” Morgan said. “I’m speaking for my daughter and when she sees it going up, she doesn’t understand because we paid for it, they told us it’s happening and nothing has happened. I’m not bashing on the football team or its booster club, but all I know is how my daughter feels when it comes to this stuff.”
Barnard clarified the issue. He said the old scoreboard at Pioneer Stadium was a different situation, because it was in the facilities budget to be replaced.
“Those two situations are really apples and oranges,” Barnard said. “They couldn’t be more different in terms of almost every level. The way they were being funded is different. It’s different companies. The timeline was way different. We started the process on the stadium scoreboard much further back in time. That project has been ongoing for a much-longer period of time than the softball project has been going. It just couldn’t be more different.
“The stadium scoreboard was in a state where it wasn’t functioning properly and it could no longer be repaired. That’s a completely different situation than a softball scoreboard that maybe wasn’t as pretty as what somebody might want, but it was still in working order. It’s just a very different situation.”
According to Barnard, it’s now a waiting game of when the new softball scoreboard will be installed.
“The bottom line is we’ve got everything in place to get the scoreboard put up,” Barnard said. “We’re just waiting on an install date at this time. The company is working hard to make it happen as quick as they can.
“… I’m certainly glad that this is going to work out and softball is going to get their scoreboard. We’re grateful for the people that helped make that happen.”
Morgan, who has daughter on the SHS softball team and another who graduated this year, and everyone else involved in the program want the scoreboard ready for the home opener Aug. 17.
Yet, she’s worried it won’t be done in time, especially after she was told it would take 6-8 weeks to be built. She is concerned it will be completed midseason, which could mean no scoreboard at the field for a short time.
“We have yet to get a date on when it will arrive and be installed,” Morgan said. “That’s part of my frustration. We had our money ready in October.
“We got approval at the beginning of March. We met Brian with a check for $16,000 in May. In June, we were told it’s happening, so we walk away from it at that point, but we hadn’t heard anything come mid-July.”