State championship game event tough to evaluate

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When the Los Lunas and Goddard high school football teams converged upon Willie Chavez Field at Los Lunas High on Dec. 7, the estimated crowd in attendance was about 7,000 people.
The crowd made the Class 4A state championship game one of the biggest single-day sporting events ever held in Valencia County. From coaches to families and alumni or simply interested local residents, the Los Lunas High campus had to house as many vehicles and spectators as ever — all in the midst of a major school reconstruction project.
Los Lunas Schools have talked in the weeks since the game, examining what went well and what could be done better, if and when the district hosts an event of the same magnitude.
“Everything definitely could be done more efficiently without construction going on,” said Los Lunas Schools athletic director Wilson Holland. “But really, except for the upper high school lot (where temporary classrooms are currently in use), we didn’t have that many fewer parking areas than usual.”
The district not only had to bring in personnel normally assigned to other district campuses, but special equipment, such as portable lights for parking areas near the Volunteer Field soccer complex. There were also several area law-enforcement agencies present for the game.
The district decided to section off the Eddie Fulkerson baseball field parking area for both buses and tailgating, including some RV parking. Katherine Gallegos Elementary was used as a parking area, with buses shuttling fans to Willie Chavez Field.
Even though tailgating is often associated with heavy drinking, Holland said allowing an all-day celebration to take place didn’t send a mixed message to students.
“People are going to do what they’re going to do,” said Holland. “People know the law. We had several people canvassing the tailgating area frequently — including me.”
Holland praised director of safety and security Desi Garcia and many others for their hard work in traffic control and other elements of the event. He said there were no arrests made at the game, although there were “a couple people who had to be removed from the venue.”
Willie Chavez Field has gone relatively incident-free in 2012, save for a piece of turf that was torn out of the field in March. The district had to replace, at its own cost, the turf and a fence that was run over during the theft, and Holland and Garcia both said no one has been arrested in connection with the crime.
“That’s a cold case,” said Holland. “It’s unfortunate, because we have always had the field available for the public to use. We want to continue to be able to do that.”


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.