Healdsburg senior quarterback Jesus Anguiano (No. 1)

Healdsburg senior quarterback Jesus Anguiano (No. 1) found a hole in the Greyhound’s 34-6 loss to visiting Cloverdale on Sept. 10, 2021. 

Healdsburg High School Hounds football will be staying at its traditional home, Rec Park, according to the school’s athletic director and Healdsburg Unified School District (HUSD) Superintendent Chris Vanden Heuvel.

Earlier this month, the district announced that the Healdsburg High Greyhounds would start playing football at their home turf next year for the 2022 season, yet school officials determined in looking at the turf project documents that the environmental impact report (EIR) for the project does not allow seating for more than 250 spectators.

It was also stated in the project EIR and approval that football would stay at Rec Park.

“We had played our games during the pandemic last year (at the high school field) which we only had minimal spectators so it wasn’t an issue and folks at the site, including the new coach, were kind of wanting to move and so we were initially looking at it, they made their case, and then we started doing some investigating around bleachers and accommodating crowds,” Vanden Heuvel said.

“I reached out to our construction manager and she very quickly pointed out that our environmental impact report when we built the synthetic turf field doesn’t allow for seating for more than 250.”

According to Vanden Heuvel, on average, Healdsburg High School football games draw a crowd of about 300 to 600 people.

In order to move football games to the Hounds’ home field, the district would have to embark on a new environmental review and EIR process and take it to the school board of trustees for approval, which could take months.

“So we’re not going to bother doing that because I don’t imagine it will be received well by the neighbors,” Vanden Heuvel said.

He added that when they built the turf the district made the case that they weren’t going to do large regular events at the facility.

Still, Healdsburg High School’s athletic director Brian Osborn was hopeful for a move to the home field where the team would have enjoyed more modern and convenient amenities such as locker rooms and training tables.

Osborn said while he understands that having Friday night football at Rec Park has been a popular age-old Healdsburg tradition, the park facilities are old and since the field is really meant for baseball, custodians have to prep the field each time prior to a football game.

There also isn’t a place on site for the team to change and get ready and when visiting teams come to play, there isn’t a place for them either.

“We’re the only school in Sonoma County that doesn’t play football on their campus. We have everything there. Two weeks ago the kids drove from Willits in their bottom pads because we don’t have anywhere for them to dress,” Osborn said, adding, “We have to take custodians from our high school and maintenance guys and send them over there to set up the field. We’re paying those people hourly to go clean the field on Saturday.”

Osborn added that playing on grass isn’t the best.

“If you want to have a home field advantage and you have a turf field you should be practicing on the turf field. It’s kind of weird to say this is our home field but we don’t practice here,” Osborn said.

He said with real turf, you may have to change the way you play if the grass is too long, or wear different cleats if it's wet and muddy.

Vanden Heuvel said having games at the high school is also easier from a student supervision standpoint.

Despite the logistical concerns with the Rec Park field, many Healdsburg community members and Hounds fans believe Rec Park is the only place for their beloved team to play.

Following the district’s announcement about the change and an article in SoCoNews’ sports section, a Facebook group called “Save Friday night lights hounds football at Recreation Park,” was created by community members who wanted to show fervent support towards keeping football at the park.

The page was created on Sept. 16 and amassed over 1,300 members in just one week.

“The goal of this group is to show overwhelming local community support to cause school officials to take pause and reconsider this decision. Traditions matter and Hounds Football at Recreation Park has played a huge part in creating and sustaining our town's character, culture and fabric,” the group admins Cindy Beth and David Reed wrote in the “About” section of the group.

In the group, folks urged other members to reach out to Osborn and Healdsburg High School Principal Amy Jones-Kerr in order to voice support for Rec Park.

During that week, group members also shared and posted pictures, stories and memories from the past 50-plus years of hounds football at Rec Park in an effort to stress the importance and historical significance of playing the park.

Osborn said he hopes those who were passionate about keeping the Hounds at Rec Park will continue to bring that same passion for supporting the team and maybe even volunteering their time to help out.

“I’ve been here 21 years, I love watching games at Rec Park. It’s a great venue to watch a game, but it’s just older and it’s a great baseball facility, it wasn’t built for football,” Osborn said.

Vanden Heuvel said they’ll still hold soccer games and track meets at the high school turf field.

The Hounds’ next football game at Rec Park is on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. versus Santa Rosa. They also have a home game on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. versus St. Vincent de Paul.

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