Allentown officials look to Dieruff students, residents to shape the future of Andre Reed Park
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Two coaches at Dieruff High School led a chorus of calls Tuesday for Allentown city and school district officials to build new athletic facilities for students at the park next door.
Students and Allentown School Board members in September urged city council to let the school district take over and complete long-overdue upgrades at Andre Reed Park.
Hundreds gathered Tuesday night in Dieruff’s cafeteria for a community forum on the proposal to build new football, soccer, baseball and softball fields.
“For the last couple of years, the two main buzzwords are equity and equality. How do we have equity and equality when we have no facilities to provide for our kids?”Dave Lutte, Dieruff head football coach
Dieruff head football coach Dave Lutte challenged officials to live up to their calls for “equity and equality” by completing the upgrades on the fields next to the school.
“For the last couple of years, the two main buzzwords are equity and equality,” Lutte said. “How do we have equity and equality when we have no facilities to provide for our kids?”
Dieruff football players are bused to practice at other fields in the city because they have no field or locker room of their own, Lutte said.
“We are not equal to any of the other 18 teams in our league, including William Allen [High School] across the city,” Lutte said. “We are not on par with the school within our own city. It needs to change."
The Dieruff football team has sustained more than $11,000 in damages to equipment it lugs around to practices and games, he said, noting the football program is “affected the most” by the lack of facilities.
“To all the decision-makers: You have an opportunity to create a legacy for not only the students now, but the students of the next generation,” Lutte said.
A place to call home
Seth Stoudt, who coaches Dieruff’s junior varsity baseball team, said students deserve a true home field at Andre Reed Park.
“When you use the word ‘home,’ there's a sense of security and safety that comes with that. And unfortunately, we cannot host anything here without safety being a major concern.”Seth Stoudt, Dieruff JV baseball coach
“When you use the word ‘home,’ there's a sense of security and safety that comes with that,” Stoudt said. “And unfortunately, we cannot host anything here without safety being a major concern.”
The park lacks facilities, bathrooms, water fountains and other “basic stuff that will kind of keep our athletes in good shape and form,” Stoudt said.
For students, new facilities next to the school would “inspire them to chase their dreams, be the best athletes they can be,” Stoudt said.
“Practicing in a new facility like this, it’s just an inspiration to all the youth around,” he said.
Building fields at Andre Reed Park would give students “more time in their day” by cutting travel — and a lot of waiting — Dieruff’s assistant principal, David Reimschussel, said.
Students could use that time to complete their homework, “have warm meals” or enjoy some downtime, he said.
It would “also give them an opportunity to participate in our tutoring that we offer after school instead of being on a bus,” Reimschussel said.
And new fields nearby “would save a lot of money not having to bus our students everywhere,” he said.
Agreement yet to be reached
Allentown city and school district officials are still in the beginning stages of the project to upgrade Andre Reed Park. Allentown owns the park, but school district officials have proposed taking over maintenance and upkeep under a lease arrangement.
“What we really needed to do today was validate the concept,” Tuerk said Tuesday. “Now we need to iron out those fine details” and logistics, like who will pay for the upgrades and maintain the facilities.
The project could take years to bring the concept plan to life.
“If somebody backed a truck full of money up tomorrow, it would still take some time,” Tuerk said, noting the proposal will go through the city's various approval processes.
“We’ve got to be realistic with residents about the timeline for development … I would love to see ground being broken next year,” Tuerk said, cautioning that’s an “aggressive” goal.