Fate of baseball field’s name undecided after emotional school board meeting; STGnews Videocast

ST. GEORGE — The Dixie High School Flyer community came out in force Tuesday afternoon to attend the monthly meeting of the Washington County School District Board of Education where supporters of former Dixie High School coach, Don Lay gathered to petition the board to “Save the Don Lay Flyer Field.”

The monthly meeting of the Washington County School District Board of Education is held at the district office building, St. George, Utah, June 16, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
The monthly meeting of the Washington County School District Board of Education is held at the district office building, St. George, Utah, June 16, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

As a new baseball field for the high school nears completion, controversy over a name change from “Coach Don Lay Flyer Field” to just “Flyer Field” has arisen finding many, on both sides of the issue, with emotions running high.

The name change was the decision of Dixie High School Principal Sharla Campbell who said in a previous interview that she feels the best way to honor history while at the same time moving forward is to create a “Dixie legacy wall” that would give recognition to many people who have contributed to Dixie baseball throughout the years.

Campbell was not in attendance at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Vice President of the Washington County School District Board of Education, Debbra Zockoll said that while they try and leave the power of these decisions in the hands of the schools, when so many people are so passionate about an issue they, the school board, need to listen.

The regular monthly meeting addressed changes to policies, presented the proposed budget for the 2015-16 school year and gave recognition to schools, staff and students for various achievements but it was the public comment session of the meeting that drew the crowd.

The public comment portion allows up to 30 people three minutes each to address the board with their concerns providing they fill out a WCSD form 50 prior to the meeting.

A large rock bearing the name of Coach Don Lay Flyer Field sits just outside the fence of where the field, now torn down, used to exist, St. George, Utah, June 16, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
A large rock bearing the name of Coach Don Lay Flyer Field sits just outside the fence of where the field, now torn down, used to exist, St. George, Utah, June 16, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Several of Lay’s supporters including his children, former students and community members stood to address the board giving heartfelt and often tearful pleas to the board to reconsider changing the name of the field.

“Keeping his name on the field doesn’t hurt anyone,” Dixie High alumnus and former student aid for Coach Lay Ilene Hacker said. “Taking it off is disrespectful.”

Lay’s legacy as a coach and teacher was touted over and again by supporters in attendance  but though many recognized what Lay did for the school and the baseball program, one of the primary arguments for keeping his name attached to the field was integrity.

In 1987 when Lay was given the honor of having his name grace the baseball field, language in the letter presented to him at the May 20, 1987, Dixie High School Letterman’s Banquet signified that the designation was meant to be permanent, or “perpetual” as the letter states.

“This isn’t about how great my dad is,” Lay’s son Cole, said, “it is about integrity.”

Support in the form of a letter came in from Scott Burns an alumnus of Cedar High School in Cedar City. Cedar High School and Dixie High School shared a historic sports rivalry in the two schools’ early years and Burns stated in his letter the one constant for him during that time was Coach Lay even though he personally was never coached by Lay.

While Coach Lay supporters were the most vocal and impassioned speakers during the meeting, they were not the only viewpoint expressed.

The monthly meeting of the Washington County School District Board of Education is held at the district office building, St. George, Utah, June 16, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
The monthly meeting of the Washington County School District Board of Education is held at the district office building, St. George, Utah, June 16, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Several supporters of the name change and Dixie High School’s administration also attended the meeting though only one spoke from the microphone.

Roger Christiansen has been working to build and complete the new field which sits just to the south of the old diamond and feels, he said, that those involved as well as many others who have contributed to Dixie baseball through the years ought to be recognized as well.

Christiansen said that when their players take the field, they play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back of the jersey and added that they are not changing the name of the field, it is a new field.

“It’s been so polarizing,” Christiansen said, “we just want to work and build a field.”

Current Dixie High School head baseball coach, Danny Ipson, attended the board meeting, he said, to support the administration of the school in their decision to name the new field, “Flyer Field,” which Ipson feels is apropos to honor the many hours and monetary contributions given by members of the school’s community to make the new field one of the best in the state.

Ipson hopes to find a resolution soon and to get the public excited about the new field, he said, and Dixie baseball which in the end is what it is all about.

For us it’s really about baseball, it’s about the team,” Ipson said, “it’s about preparing ourselves to teach these young men how to be quality citizens and to be able to go out and teach them the game of baseball.”

After Tuesday’s meeting the fate of the name is still up in the air, Zockoll said, adding that she hopes for a resolution that can make everyone happy.

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18 Comments

  • The train June 17, 2015 at 11:21 am

    It’s too bad that this has gotten so out of hand. While I realize that in the families eyes these move seems rude or unethical. But the family is acting so entitled. I read quotes by Cole, the son saying that “I have talked to lawyers who said that the documentation assumes that the name should live on forever.” Really? Shouldn’t you say thanks that you had the chance honor your dads name? It’s crazy that the family feels so entitled. That’s an honor, not a privilege. 2nd, its not the same field. The field is a completely new field. So if there were a field in that previous location, than sure it could maybe be considered. 3rd, the kids don’t care. Christansen puts it perfectly, they are playing for Dixie High. Not one individual. I guess that the right side won 🙂

    • An actual Independent June 17, 2015 at 9:01 pm

      I was totally turned off by the thought that a family member would even be talking to an attorney about this. I agree about the entitlement attitude.
      I am not from here and have no connection or history to DHS Baseball. But IF Don Lay was all he’s touted to have been, I’d imagine he would back the Flyer Field name on the basis that it’s about the team and the program, rather than about him.

  • anybody home June 17, 2015 at 11:53 am

    How about this – Leave the old field as “Coach Don Lay Field” and name the new one “Flyer Field.”

    Doesn’t sound as if anybody guaranteed that Mr. Lay’s name would be on any and all future fields for the District. He’ll still be honored for those who care about that, and the new field will honor the team.

  • Sand-Town June 17, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    I believe the intentions of the District was to leave the original sign up, but I can’t confirm that. If the family really wants “perpetual” recognition then I would recommend that they should ask each one of the 800 petition signees to donate $$ and form a Don Lay scholarship that would be awarded to a player on the last home game. The family could present it to a player of their choice and explain all the great things Don Lay accomplished in front of the whole crowd. This would truly be perpetual because it would continue to “give” to today’s students and bridge the generation gap.

  • Flyermom June 18, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    It’s clear to see that councilwoman Debbie Zockel has gotten sucked into the pity party of the Don Lay Supporters. That’s unfortunate, because the reason why no one from the opposing side spoke up , is because we do not see the need for this to be an issue any longer!!!! Trust me….there is plenty of passion on the side of the Flyer Field supporters, we just choose not to make it a circus!!! How can anyone honestly say that just one name on that field, makes more sense, than simply leaving it Flyer Field, so that ALL may be celebrated & recognized, for making the Dixie High Baseball program, what it is, TODAY???? I have sat at countless ball games, at Flyer Field, over the past 18 years, and found it very interesting, that I have NEVER seen, any of Don Lay supporters, who spoke at the meeting, at the ball field. EVER!!!! Why, then, do any of them feel so entitled to know what’s best for The Dixie High Baseball program, or the school, itself? Mrs. Campbell is an excellent principal, and she has said time & time again, that Coach Lay’s name will still be honored, and that his large name rock, will stay on the corner of the old field. How is that striping coach Lay of his name and honor????? It is time to move forward, embrace this exciting new change, be grateful for an amazing new ball field in our community & give THANKS to ALL, for their generosity and love, for the Flyers of Dixie High! REAL integrity is giving…and NOT receiving! This new ball field is a product of the genuine love, many people have, for the great game of baseball, for Dixie High, for our community, but most of all, for so many amazing players, who have ever played, as a Dixie High Flyer! This is a time for celebration…..not for arguing over a name on a field!!!!!!

  • Lastdays June 18, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    There must be more to this story than what is being revealed. If the football field was moved or re-positioned, I would GUARANTEE that the field would still be named after Walt Brooks. No controversies, no questions asked. So it would be good to know more info as to why the struggle with this.

  • Justsayin June 18, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    I wondered if there is more to this story too. How hard is it to transfer a name from one sign to another? What’s the big deal? And, the coach goes to support his principal and she isn’t even there. Doesn’t make sense. Why would the principal be a no show? Wouldn’t she be there to support her own idea? Why would the coach care who’s name is on the ballpark? Kinda strange that he would care about having Don Lay’s name on a sign or not. He should just be happy he’s getting a new place to play ball. I hear it’s a lot better than what Pine View is getting. Someone answer these questions, maybe someone can full me in.

  • Anon June 19, 2015 at 8:09 am

    If keeping the name is so important to the family, why don’t they donate the money to build the field? I understand that it may not be financially feasible, but buildings and fields (particularly in higher education) are demolished and renamed all the time. Seems to me that the only way to ensure that Coach Lay’s legacy would live on in the way that his family and proponents wish would be to put up the money for the field themselves. Then the school would pretty much have to name it whatever they wanted.

  • DLFFN June 19, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    I know most of the “players” in this and went to the meeting to see the “protest”. I expected fireworks and there was even a policeman there to control the unruly crowd. If others were there like me to see what kind of explosive people would be there, well we were disappointed. Nope, no circus. I have known the Ipson clan for a long time, I know the Lay kids too, all good people. I have spent plenty of time too sitting on those old cement seats at the old baseball park. I for one, am happy about getting to cheer for the Flyers at their new digs, sitting on a real chair. The school board meeting unfolded like clockwork and I thought I’d hear some loud voices on both sides. But it turned out to be a nice, calm meeting, like a well oiled machine. The Lay kids spoke up and so did their backers, all seemed like good people. I sat there enjoying myself as I listened, with an open mind to all the people track the progress of Dixie baseball. it was like going back in time to hear about why and how Don Lay got the account of the field in his name. The Lay backers stepped up one at a time, respectful and prepared to handout genuine reasons the Lay name should carry on. A lady read a letter from Scott Burns, I know him well. Burns was a big name in Cedar City and probably still is, his dad was a great judge. Scott’s letter brought back the good old days of Dixie and Cedar High playing each other in sports and how Lay was the one constant in all of the rivalries. it was nice to hear a Cedar Redman’s thoughtful letter praising Lay for his valiant efforts on and off the field. Judge Burns would be proud him. All of the presenters made those in attendance think about the great history of Southern Utah pointing out the founders of this and that. The opposing side, had one lone man speak up. I know him too, Roger made some good points but he lost my respect when he turned to the Lay kids and pointed at them saying, I don’t see any of you out their building the field. I recon they are too busy working for a living and half of them don’t live here. I’ve seen them volunteer plenty of times, they are good people. It was at that time I realized what I figured all along and that’s the way it goes now days, this was all about the cold hard cash mixed in with a little politics. I know Dan and Coach Danny and all the Ipson’s and they are good people and I think they mean well. It is a mystery as to how and why they wouldn’t support the Lay kids who are sticking their necks out to esteem their dead dad. FlyerMom making comments might not want to say the Lay kids are having a pity party, it hasn’t been that long since they buried their dad, wait until the dust settles before you pick on the kids. So there you have it, the Lay kids who don’t have Don Ipson’s kind of money to throw around, the Ipson’s kid is the Coach and has every right to buy him a new ball park. A school board who called the meeting adjourned without saying a word. And I was left there sitting in my chair wondering what everyone came for. Politics at it’s finest, folks. I was impartial going into the meeting, feeling like I had pretty good friends on both sides. I thought I’d see a protest and was sadly disappointed in that. In the long run I like cheering for the underdog, in this case the Lay kids who are matter of factly just asking the higher ups to keep a deal that may have been made on a handshake many years ago. I figure all of Coach Ipson’s players will play just fine under a sign with Don Lay’s name on it. Representative Ipson would be smart if he took a lesson from some of the greats of history and throw his support over to the Lay kids, I’m sure the principal would take note. Sorry I missed her at the meeting. This move would form a foundation for Ipson’s next election to the state legislature. I still have fond feelings for all involved and hope we can play a fair game on the new park and keep the handshake deal made to Lay.

    • fun bag June 19, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      write a book…

    • sallyhans June 19, 2015 at 5:01 pm

      Principal Campbell was asked not to attend the meeting as was Retired Principal Ross Taylor. I would love to ask Principal Ross Taylor what he meant by giving this recognition to Coach Lay, because I would bet money he didn’t mean for it to be “forever.” I too was at the meeting & thought the pep rally from the Lay side was quite ridiculous! Last time I checked the Ipsons or DATS trucking donates money to EVERY good thing going on in southern Utah. If you go to ANY of the ball fields there are signs saying they are contributors, they clearly do not want the field named after them or it would be…good job Coach Danny Ipson for backing the school board & more importantly Principal Sharla Campbell through this mess. It’s a joke the way adults, “Lay Supporters” can act like such victims when in reality they should just be thankful for the name on the field for almost 20 years, get over it people & stop attacking the Ipson family in all of this, they have done nothing but been very generous to our community! PS did anyone else at the meeting find it very weird that all the “Lay supporters” had papers in hand that we’re pre written…I wonder how many of those people actually wrote the letter they read, again id be willing to bet that was 3 people’s opinion in about 15 different letters because for some weird reason I don’t think Ms Adams gives a damn about the field, I bet she read that because she’s a “business owner” in southern Utah & they thought it would be good to have people from “all sides” give their side…when in reality she is DJ Tischners boss & friend, who would also be known as don lays grandson. Good job Lays…this isn’t self serving at all “it’s about integrity” BULL SHIT!

      • Mean Momma June 19, 2015 at 6:05 pm

        SALLYHANS! Watch your language young lady!

  • dispatchike June 19, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Wow, the personal attacks by those who oppose Coach Don Lays name on the field are sad. I am one of those who have assisted the group with the Facebook page, and I created the online petition. I took a role helping the Lay family out of a respect for tradition and honoring the father of Dixie baseball. I have nothing personal to gain, and I was never a student of Don Lay. However, I am a native of St George and a graduate of Dixie High.

    I am sick and tired of traditions being taken away. We saw what happened at the college. First with the mascot, then the statue. We have seen people try to remove the Name “Dixie” from our great University. IM TIRED OF IT! I chose to take a stand. I knoew nothing of money or “politics” involved when I chose to get involved. Early on I was contacted by someone within the Ipson family and asked to not continue with this. The person told me of all the money they put into it, etc. I chose to not mention any of this. It wasn’t what we were trying to accomplish. We never mentioned the Ipson name. We focused on Coach Lay. That’s who this is about.

    The Ipson name was brought public in a news article by superintendent Bergeson. Shortly after that, the personal attacks and lies about me began. I tried to stay quiet and keep on trying to focus on Coach Lay. These attacks continued. I even called out privately a few of these people, who I had admired when I had them as teachers and coaches.

    We keep getting told the principal has a better plan. We support her “legacy Wall” and would to love to see it at Don Lay flyer field! We have supported this since we learned of it. Why can’t this wall be an addition to Don Lay Flyer Field.
    It breaks my heart to see how people who want to let a legacy live, are being treated so poorly. Those who are doing this should feel ashamed. Hide behind screen names, and trample on the family of a dead coach! WOW.

    As long as the Lay family, and members of the community want to continue to find a solution, I will be there to support them. I will be there, without hiding behind screen names, and anonymous posting.

    Long live the Legacy of Coach Lay,

    Greg Brooks
    Dixie High School class of 1994

  • The train June 22, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Comparing the Confederate flag, ties to racism, and the name Dixie has nothing to do with a family feeling entitled to the name of a baseball field. He wouldn’t want anybody, including his family to throw a fit over such a silly topic. It’s not the same field. So why do you want it to have the same name? Thats like wanting to keep your address when you move. It’s illogical.

  • DLFFN June 22, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    The ball park is still the Dixie High School baseball park. It might have a slightly different address, but it’s still the Dixie High School baseball field, why not have it have the same name? I haven’t figured out why anyone wants the name to change, it doesn’t benefit anyone as far as I can see. As I said before, I am sure Coach Danny’s players can play just fine under a sign with or without Don Lay’s name on it. Why does he care? The principal didn’t care enough to come and support her own idea. Who told her not to be there? Can anyone tell someone not to attend a public meeting? It’s got to be politics. I don’t think the Lay kids should be classified as throwing a fit, they just lost their dad in recent years, I think they are wanting to honor him like he has been previously. I think they love their dad and I imagine they miss him. Sallyhans, I attended the meeting, I didn’t hear anyone mention the Ipson name except Roger who was speaking against having Lay’s name on the sign, no attacks came from the Lay side. You might want to take it easy with the profanity, it doesn’t help your cause and surely doesn’t help the Ipson image.

    • Sand-Town June 22, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      It’s easy explain something by saying it’s political, but you haven’t explained what this “politics” is? I’ve watched this debate, which has been pretty one sided (Lay group) with interest. I keep hearing, “it’s about money”, “It’s politics”, but have no definition of either one. To me it’s pretty clear that it is NOT about money other wise the name would be something other than Flyer Field. I don’t know how it can be political, Don Lay quit teaching/coaching 38 years ago. However, I do find it interesting that the Lay group used an actual politician’s letter (Burns from Cedar) and then says it’s all about politics. It looks to me that the Principal saw an opportunity to return back to tradition, you know the school is 104 years old, and that Don Lay got his 28 years of recognition. I don’t know but I kinda like the idea of calling it Flyer Field. In my circles this has been a good topic of discussion, each bringing up possible scenarios and we always come up with one that seems to work…Flyer Field!

  • LTA June 22, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    If they want to honor him, they should do it by the way they live. Not the way they talk. I definitely think they are acting entitled. They should be thanking Dixie High for the great chance they had to honor their dad. I don’t mean to take anything away from him. But life changes. If they were trying to keep tradition around it would still be Dixie Academy. If they were trying to keep tradition they wouldn’t have got a new school. If they were trying to keep tradition they wouldn’t have gotten turf at the football field. It wouldn’t be honoring all the great people who helped lay grass. I agree with other comments, when they went to a lawyer to try and get help they crossed the line. Be grateful, not entitled. Your fathers legacy lives on through your lives, not through a baseball field.
    The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith. -Billy Graham

  • LTA June 24, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    A lot of silence here…..when you’re right, you’re right!

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