A lawsuit filed on behalf of three Batavia High School softball players alleges that the varsity softball field there is substandard, but Section V officials and area softball coaches say the field isn't anything out of the ordinary.
Yes, it's not Dwyer Stadium, where the boys play baseball, but no coach has ever complained about the facilities at BHS, according to Bob Huber, chairman of the Section V girls softball committee.
In fact, the BHS has been used previously for neutral-ground games during early Section V playoff rounds.
Representing the girls in the suit is the Empire Justice Center out of Rochester.
The suit alleges a violation of Title IX, a federal law in place since 1972 mandating equal opportunity in public school sports.
According to the suit, the girls have been denied their rights under Title IX because the girl's softball field is not comparable to Dwyer Stadium.
Dwyer was built nearly 20 years ago at a cost of $3 million, which was financed by state grants and a city bond. The school district did not participate in its construction or financing.
The Batavia Muckdogs, a short-season Class A team affiliated with the Miami Marlins and owned primarily by the community, plays at Dwyer from June to September. During the spring, the field is open to high school and college teams.
For high school games, the Muckdogs collect $175 per game (Notre Dame plays at Dwyer as well).
Muckdogs General Manager Travis Sick said the $175 fee barely covers the cost of making the field available to high school teams.
"It's a community service and the city owns the stadium," Sick said. "We're happy to make it available."
The suit says the facilities are unequal because the girls field doesn't have 2,200 covered grandstand seats, nor lightning for night games, a ticket booth, an outfield fence, an electronic scoreboard, press box, covered dugouts, concession stand and bullpens.
Of course, the boys don't use all those amenities at Dwyer. Typically, fewer than 200 people attend a high school game.
CORRECTION: Only Notre Dame boys play night games at Dwyer -- twice a year.
But no high school games involve selling tickets and the concession stands are never open during high school games.
Dwyer is also one of the most cavernous professional stadiums around with 330 feet from home plate down each line. Few high school players can hit a home run over Dwyer's 12-foot-high outfield walls.
The suit alleges the girls playing at BHS can't hit-out-of-the-park home runs because there is no fence.
There is no fence at BHS because the outfield overlaps with a soccer field.
Also, according to the suit the "infield is covered with pebble-sized gravel mixed with some dirt, making it dangerous and painful for players to slide."
Ron Funke, athletic director and girls softball coach with Pembroke HS, and a member of the Section V committee, said the Batavia field is the same quality typical not only of girls fields, but boys fields, throughout Section V.
It's a special infield mix commonly used on softball and baseball fields, he said.
The suit states, "The infield material makes it harder for the players to play at their most competitive level and has given them a reputation in their league for having the worst field."
But both Funke and Huber said they've never heard complaints about Batavia's field and Funke said he thinks it's a fine place to play.
Funke indicated he was a little baffled by the suit.
"I don't know where else they'd play," Funke said. "There isn’t anything for softball other than GCC and there isn’t another facility like Dwyer for the girls to play in, and GCC has their own games to play."
The school distirct did manage to schedule four of the girls' 11 home games this season at GCC.
But even GCC's field doesn't have the amenities of Dwyer.
We called the Empire Justice center to respond to some of these issues, but the attorney handling the case is not giving interviews. We were told the center would issue a written statement for all media at a later time.
While the suit alleges that many girls fields in "the league" have fences, dugouts and seating, both Huber and Funke said it's really a mixed bag. There are several teams without fences, they said.
Both said there are also some boys' teams in Section V that play on fields without dugouts and bullpens.
The suit has multiple paragraphs covering the lack of night lightning for girls softball, noting that night games "have a big-league quality not associated with day games."
There are never night high school games played at Dwyer because night lighting is expensive.
The school district included proposed upgrades to the girls' field as part of a bond measure rejected by voters in 2011, and are including $110,000 in funding for upgrades in a bond measure that will go before voters next month.
School officials say, and the suit acknowledges, that Empire Justice attorneys were aware of the proposed bond measure before filing the lawsuit.
The suit complains that if the bond passes, improvements will only cover dugouts, scoreboard and a fence, and that the changes won't take place prior to the 2013 season.
The students named as plaintiffs in the suit are Rebecca Myers, 14, who's a student at Batavia Middle School, Elizabeth Myers, 17, a junior and captain of the team, and Kimberly Walsh, 17 and a senior.
The class-action suit seeks relief for all current and future girl softball players at BHS.
Currently, the school has no JV softball team because of a lack of participating students. In order to field a team for the 2013 season, the team includes two seventh-grade students and one eighth-grade student.
Asked if he was concerned that the district could go to the expense of upgrading the facilities and dealing with the lawsuit only to find that in a season or two, there will be no softball team due to lack of participation, Superintendent Chris Dailey said he is not concerned.
Asked if the district has considered moving the boys out of Dwyer and to one of the district's three baseball fields, Dailey said, "We're always thinking."
Dailey said he doesn't have an estimate yet on how much it will cost the district to respond to the suit.
If the cost of upgrades to the softball field is $110,000, the district will take nearly 45 years at $175 per game to pay $110,000 for the boys to play at Dwyer.