ST. GEORGE – The historic Don Lay Flyer Field at Dixie High School in St. George is being torn down, and a new baseball field is nearing completion nearby; however, controversy has arisen over the name of the new field.
The old field, located next to the high school on 700 South in St. George, is named after much-loved and celebrated baseball coach Don Lay, who died in 2011.
The new field is located at the site of the old Dixie Middle School, at about 800 South and 100 East, and will be named simply Flyer Field – a move some are taking issue with.
“That didn’t sit right with a lot of the alumni, so we started a petition,” Ilene Hacker, a Dixie High School graduate, said.
Hacker also launched a Facebook page, Save the Don Lay Flyer Field, and the page has 472 likes as of Tuesday afternoon.
Hacker and others started an online petition on Change.org called “Keep the name of the new Dixie baseball field ‘Don Lay Flyer Field.'” Resident Greg Brooks presented a list of petition signatures to the Washington County School District Board at the board’s May 12 meeting. As of Tuesday afternoon, 683 supporters have signed the petition.
“We feel like a lot of us older alumni and old town folks, we like to have tradition and heritage preserved in St. George,” Hacker said.
Although the Washington County School District Board has already approved the new name, the group plans to present more signatures to the board at their June meeting.
The final decision regarding the name of the field was made by Dixie High School Principal Sharla Campbell, and she said she stands by her decision to leave off the name of Don Lay and simply name the new baseball field “Flyer Field.”
Dixie is a school with a long tradition and a lot of history, Campbell said.
This year will mark the 104th graduating class for Dixie High School, and when you have that length of time, there are different “eras,” she said.
Everyone feels their era is the best, and that’s a good thing; however, you really can’t quantify which era was the greatest, she said.
“We in no way have proposed this to disassociate ourselves with tradition or with the great experience students have had over the years with different coaches,” Campbell said.
She said she feels the best way to maintain history going forward is a “Dixie legacy wall” that gives the school the opportunity to honor several people who have contributed to Dixie baseball over the years.
“Instead of just one name on the field, the wall can include different people from different eras,” Campbell said.
While the design of the wall is not completed, the plan is to have plaques with text explaining the accomplishments of each individual. Don Lay will definitely be included, Campbell said, and she has invited Lay’s family to work with the school to help determine what the plaque will say.
The school district provided enough funds for a basic baseball field, while other amenities, such as stadium seats, were paid for by private donors, Campbell said.
“The baseball booster club has been generous and very effective for a number of years,” she said. “We just have very many involved parents that are supportive.”
She said support allows the school to have quality programs.
Coach Dan Ipson said he agrees with Campbell’s decision about the field name and said the move to a new field will be bittersweet.
“We’re excited to be able to go down to the new field,” Ipson said. “It’s with mixed emotions; there’s been a lot of resources attributed to the current Flyer field. There’s been many hands that have been able to build that field that exceeds any one person or one name or one activity that’s been able to build that.”
“We leave that field with a little bit of, you know, angst, because of that fact,” Ipson said, adding that he is proud of the old field and the efforts of many people throughout the community who contributed to its success.
“But we look forward to and are excited for the opportunity to be able to be playing on the new playing surface and be able to host many more games in the years to come,” Ipson said.
The new field was needed due to the old field’s aging infrastructure, as well as safety concerns about being so near 700 South.
“We replace, oh, three or four, five, six windshields a year,” Campbell said. “Foul balls go out, they damage cars.”
Luckily, there have been no injuries, Campbell said, but as the street has gotten busier, the risk to both drivers and pedestrians has increased.
The new field is expected to be ready for play at the middle or end of July, during the summer ball activity, Ipson said. The baseball team will be without a home for about six weeks.
“We’re working on that currently,” Ipson said.
The Dixie Flyers have won a total of six state championships, with the most recent coming in 2006 and three others coming in the 1990s – long after Lay had retired. He was the head coach when Dixie won the state title in Class B in 1973 and in 2A in 1974. Lay was also the basketball coach for many years at Dixie and won the 1A championship in 1970.
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