by Lee Rettig
While the school directors figure out how to spend the 70 to 80 million dollars on Kittanning, Ford City and Elderton secondary schools, there may be a question of what architects will do with the Kittanning football field.
The school’s team doctor, Dr. Bert Hepner, wrote a letter to the school administration on September 13, 2010, telling them the fence around the field is an accident waiting to happen.
“You may or may not be aware of the fact that the facilities at Kittanning Senior High School pose a significant liability problem as the sidelines are very small and the fences surrounding the sideline are dangerously close to the field of play,” Hepner wrote. “As a player of Kittanning High School and also as a team physician for the last eight years, I have seen multiple children be hit into or run into that same fence. To the best of my knowledge there have been no serious injuries as a result of this other than bumps bruises, sprains, strains and an occasional concussion. I think to this point we have all been very lucky that there haven’t been any serious injuries. However, it is my concern that as these children continue to play at more competitive levels and also become bigger, faster and stronger, it is only a matter of time before we do witness a catastrophic injury along the sideline.”
Kittanning Head Coach Sam Panchik calls the field “the cage” because of the wire fence.
Kittanning Athletic Director Todd Harvey could not recall any rule of how close a fence can be to the playing surface. The fence is eleven feet from the playing surface at Kittanning. Harvey did recall a player from another school that hit the fence when he was tackled. He wrote a letter to the WPIAL but nothing came of it. That was years ago.
Jim Collins, Assistant Executive Director for the WPIAL, said he knew of no rule requiring specific distances between field and playing surfaces.
Armstrong School District (ASD) Director Chris Choncek and other directors said they were aware of the situation. Choncek said the ASD Administration is looking into it, but has no comment at this time.
If it is in the rule book, nobody seems to be interested in finding it. Some suggestions from spectators is to pad the fence like the goal posts. As renovation plans are made public, it could be interesting.