The soggy saga of Stoney Field, the athletic stadium on the Charleston peninsula owned by the city and used primarily by Burke High School’s football team for home games, is one that began decades ago and now finds itself washing up on the banks of the Ashley as another wet tale of the school district’s disparate treatment of the predominantly Black high school. At least that’s how some viewers see it.
Last week after some two weeks of incessant rain school district officials moved Burke’s Oct. 3 home football game from Stoney Field to Johnson Hagood Stadium. District officials said the change was made because inclement weather turned Stoney Field into a marsh. The same thing happened last week.
Stoney Field, owned by the City of Charleston and used by the school district through a shared use/maintenance agreement, is built on filled land near the Ashley River. It has been a point of contention for downtown schools advocates in the past who say Burke, like other district high schools, should have its own playing field.
Last year Friends of Burke co-founder Arthur Lawrence said, “The property belongs to the city which took the crown off the field several years ago to allow for soccer playing. The crown allowed for draining, but soccer has to be played on a flat field,” Lawrence explained.
“The problems with Stoney Field are man-made with the decision by the city. Why should the schools invest in property owned by somebody else when they have no voice in the decisions made about that property?” Lawrence reasoned.
Former CCSD Constituent Dist. 20 school Board Chair Marvin Stewart said there’s plenty of blame to go around. He been advocating for a facility for Burke owned by the school district over two decades. While the current county school board’s members shouldn’t be held accountable, the district’s administrations have failed Burke.
As downtown residents protest the district’s decision to again move Burke’s home games at Johnson Hagood, more feasible options are not being considered because, as usual, school district officials approach Burke as if it’s a redheaded stepchild, Stewart said.
An athletic facility at the Charleston School for Math and Science on Grove Street could serve the needs of downtown schools. Beyond that idea, a land swap between the City of Charleston and school district could make other properties available, he said.
Former Burke basketball coach and athletic director Earl Brown also said school district officials aren’t thinking outside the box to find solutions to the Stoney Field washout.
When it comes to Burke, the school could be stellar because of its proximity to other athletic resources such as Harmon Field and the Jack Adams Tennis and Arthur Christopher Community centers. Previous proposals to utilize those resources got pushed back by various school administrations, Brown said.
Charleston Rep. Wendell Gilliard has been coordinating collaborations between various stakeholders to reach a resolution to the Stoney Field dilemma. Fixing the problem simply means going back to past solutions, he said. That’s probably more likely now since the city’s Horizon project in partnership with the Medical University of S.C. will radically change the west side area where the stadium is located, he said.