$10M plan would overhaul Randall Park to make stadium for Woodrow and community athletics

A 2012 photo of Woodrow baseball in Randall Park. (Photo by Lisa Sutton Whitten)

When it comes to sports, Woodrow Wilson High School is a conundrum — it has produced two Heisman Trophy winners but does not have a dedicated football stadium. Now, a group of parents are looking for a solution for that decades-old problem that could lead to a $10-million overhaul for East Dallas’ Randall Park, including a 5,000-seat stadium.

“We want to do something to that park that would make the neighbors happy. That park is not well utilized. You don’t see families using that park,” says Maria Hasbany, PTA president, who is quick to emphasis the improvements would benefit the whole neighborhood, not just Woodrow. “It’s not going to be Woodrow’s stadium — it won’t have our name on it. It’ll be a parks department stadium that we would just have first right of refusal on.”

She’s equally quick to point out that the plan is nothing more than an idea, so far. The parents would need support from both Dallas ISD and the city parks department, something that has not yet been accomplished. Nonetheless, the PTA and the Booster Club hosted a meeting last week to discuss the how to move plans forward.

“We’re just in the preliminary stages of talking to people in the neighborhood,” Hasbany says. “We need to find out if we are going to have enough community support to go out and raise the money we need to get this thing built. Because we’re going to have to raise a lot of money to make this work.”

The stadium would be built where the rather desert-like soccer field currently exists, which is used by both local schools and neighborhood youth athletics. The dream includes retractable seating to allow it to be used for both soccer and football. In addition, the overhaul would transform the entire park into an athletic facility with new tennis courts, a track and additional field space for the marching band and Sweethearts drill team to use. The current field and track at the high school, which is in failing condition, would become a parking lot to provide for the growing school and additional facilities. It would be open to Woodrow as well as other DISD schools that lack proper athletic facilities, such as Bryan Adams.

“We hope there’s a win-win for the school and the city in that they get a nice athletic facility for everyone to use,” Hasbany says. “We have to get to the right people at parks and the right people at DISD to make sure we have permission and buy-in before we do anything else. If they don’t contribute anything, I don’t think it’s really feasible — $10 million is a lot of money. But if they could contribute maybe half, I think we could do that.”

Via email, Booster Club president and Woodrow parent Shannon West said, “The booster club is going to seed some money to get the ball rolling — we need about $10,000 to get the drawings, scope and cost of project and then we will have to figure out who is going to pay what.”

They have gotten preliminary support from neighbors Juliette Fowler, who would like to see some new life in the park. Just 15 years ago, Randall Park was marred by crime and drug use with limited functional use to the school or the community. An effort led by Woodrow boosters and athletic director Bobby Estes made the park more useable, particularly for the school’s athletics department. But since then the park has suffered from limited maintenance.

“There has not been the best activity happening in that back area of the park,” Hasbany says.

Currently, Woodrow plays its home games at Franklin Field by Hillcrest High School, which “costs a fortune in buses,” Hasbany says, plus is inconvenient for parents and students who want to attend the games.

Hasbany says the idea of transforming Randall Park into a proper athletic facility for Woodrow and the neighborhood has been kicked around for years. An effort was almost launched five years ago, but then the Lakewood Elementary Expansion Foundation got busy bringing improvements to the over-crowded school, which are now fully funded and under way.

“It would have been the same donor base,” Hasbany points out, “so we decided to wait. This seemed like a good time to revisit it. But at this point, we’re just talking. Nothing official has been done.”

Advocate interns contributed to this post.

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