Chieftain Stronger, Part 4: Athletics

The 2023 Chieftain Stronger school bond proposal is unlike any other that Sapulpa Public Schools has ever done, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely unfamiliar territory; In addition to the new high school, the new performing arts center, and the new Educational Pathways program, a portion of the bond will be used for new and upgraded athletics facilities, technology and equipment upgrades throughout the district, playground equipment, junior high renovations, and a new transportation fleet.

This is the conclusion of our four-part series on the Chieftain Stronger 2023 School Bond. This week is about the remaining uses of the bond proposal that have not already been covered in depth. See our other school bond coverage here.

As part of the school bond—should it pass on Tuesday, September 12th—Westside Sports Complex, where you can find Sapulpa Public Schools’ soccer fields and track facility, would be expanded to add an indoor baseball and softball facility, concession areas, and baseball and softball fields with artificial turf.

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“Our facilities must be competitive,” said Assistant Superintendent Johnny Bilby. “Smaller districts than Sapulpa are upgrading to artificial turf. If we don’t have welcoming, updated facilities, parents can choose to send their children outside of our district.”

Under head coach Steve Irvine, Sapulpa Chieftains baseball won the 5A regional championship in 2022 and 2023. The team made it to the state semi-finals in 2023.

But, for decades, Sapulpa Chieftains baseball has been playing on leased land from the city. Plumbing under and around the field cannot support crowds, and rain delays and cancellations due to mud and standing water on the grass are very frequent.  

“A new baseball facility will be a game changer for our back-to-back Regional Championship-winning baseball program,” Irvine said. “A turf field will allow us to keep up with other top area baseball programs and avoid countless hours of field and facility maintenance where we can focus solely on bringing a State Championship product to the field.”

Renderings of the new Westside Sports facility. Provided.

The softball field also has moved over the years, and is now in a neighborhood area near Liberty Elementary. A central location with practice facilities and artificial turf would benefit our softball team as well as they grow and improve.

While upgrading the athletics and activities hasn’t gotten the same attention as the high school or the performing arts center, it remains an important part of the 2023 school bond because Sapulpa has seen such tremendous growth and interest in its sports programs. Auxiliary gyms would also offer a space for student activities as well as community events.

One of the proposed new gym spaces as part of the 2023 Chieftain Stronger school bond.

“You can never have enough gym space,” said Mr. Bilby. “These are gathering areas not only for student activities and athletics but venues that can be used by the community. Our Indian Education Department helps host a stomp dance in the fall, which attracts larger crowds each year. We can also accommodate student and faculty activities, such as leadership programs or professional development.”

A perfect example is the Bucket Squad game, put on by the state champion Sapulpa Lady Chieftains Basketball last school year, where the student body gathered to cheer on and support our Special Chieftains in a basketball game with the Lady Chieftains. 

Year over year, the Sapulpa High School Ping Ping dance team has been named multi-national champions, and the varsity cheer squad took state in STUNT in 2023. Students come to Sapulpa for such award-winning activities, in addition to learning. Funding adequate practice space is a crucial part of this bond issue.

In the same way that the new performing arts center would bring more dollars into the community through events like Broadway stage performances, nice athletics facilities will attract state and even national tournaments, and open the door for expanding on requests that the school already receives from around the state.

But of course, the most important beneficiary of these improvements wouldn’t be surrounding communities, but Sapulpa’s own athletes and coaching staff, among others.

Rendering of the new endzone football facility. Provided.

The building currently used by the football team for locker rooms and coaches’ offices is plagued by a leaky roof and inadequate space. The Sapulpa community is very supportive of Chieftains football, showing up on Friday nights to cheer on the team—it’s a community event. One of the new buildings—an end zone facility—would provide locker rooms, coaches’ offices, and athletic training rooms to enhance the program and match the level of school spirit in our community.

Indeed, Sapulpa Public Schools has proven to be a hub of our community—open to all residents for academic, fine and performing arts programs, athletic events, community meetings and gatherings. Proponents of the bond believe that great schools increase property values and safe schools ensure safer neighborhoods and that by building a stronger educational foundation for our students, we build a brighter and stronger future and help mold active, well-rounded citizens. 

“This is a comprehensive bond package,” said Superintendent Rob Armstrong. “It includes district-wide upgrades, new and improved athletic facilities, replacement of the entire transportation fleet, in addition to a new high school and a performing arts center. It’s no secret that great schools, and top-notch school facilities, generate community growth. We want our facilities to mirror the wonderful things going on in our classrooms.”

The Chieftain Stronger 2023 school bond election is scheduled for Tuesday, September 12th. Polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Get more information on precinct locations here. For more information on the bond proposals, including frequently asked questions, visit the school’s bond page on their website.

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