Softball field suit headed to court

The location and use of the Uintah High School softball field remains a source of concern for Vernal residents Melissa and Rod Allen. The construction of the field is the subject of a lawsuit between the Allens, who live behind the UHS property and the district.

The most recent hearing was held Jan. 11 regarding their most recently-filed motion.

In 2018, as the time approached for the new field to be built, Melissa Allen said that the district did come to her to discuss that the field would be built 30 feet closer to their home. She says that at the time, they did not discuss that the new field would have lights and a public address system.

In 2018-2019, USD began construction of the new softball field. The makeup of the school board has changed since that time, but the current school board and superintendent stated that, “The current board and administration understands and supports the need for lights and a public address system at the softball field. In fact, we believe it would be unusual for an outdoor high school sports facility in Utah to be built without lights and a P.A. system.” Shortly after construction was completed, the Allens began to experience several issues regarding the new field. They shared instances in which the lights of the new field were left on late into the night, at times until midnight. In those situations, it seemed many times there wasn’t a game going on and the lights had simply been forgotten.

Other occurences included early morning use of the P.A. system with loud music that could be heard clearly within the Allens’ home. Other problems included balls being hit onto their property, some hitting their home, and people coming into their yard to retrieve the balls. The Allens have recorded over 75 events like those listed above in the last three years.

During this time, the Allens attempted to negotiate with the school district regarding these issues. The school district has made attempts to remedy some of these situations. For instance, when the Allens notified them of balls and people coming onto their property, the school district agreed to put a net up and no trespassing signs.

The Allens asked for the sound system to be set to not allow such high volumes, and in legal documents the district responded that it had a technician come out to fix the sound system with volume limits. However, in that same legal document the Allens have stated that even after the school district claimed they had a technician out to remedy the volume issue the Allens were able to hear the sound system within their home.

In these negotiation attempts, the Allens asked that games end by 9 p.m. and the lights and sound system be turned off by then. In this, the district responded by saying that they cannot commit to such a schedule as game play is not something that can be so strictly scheduled.

More recently, the district stated, “Softball games at Uintah High typically start around 3:30 p.m. That’s the start time set for region play. This allows student-athletes to have has much time as possible in the classroom on game days. The teams we play travel three or more hours to get here, and bring multiple teams (freshman, sophomore, JV and varsity).” This was the reasoning the district gave for why they needed the new lights on the field and is the same reasoning they gave in legal documents for why they can’t promise a 9 p.m. end time for games.

As recently as August of 2022, the Allens and their neighbors have recorded instances in which the lights on the field have been left on until nearly midnight and the sound systems are being used as early as 7 a.m.

The Allens felt that their negotiating attempts were not being heard by Uintah School District which is why they ultimately decided to file the lawsuit.

At the hearing Jan. 11, oral arguments were heard on behalf of both the Allens and the school district. The Allens requested a temporary injunction and restraining order that would require the school district to shut down the music and lights by 9 p.m. and not use them before 8 a.m. while the lawsuit is ongoing. The judge is taking this under advisement.

Melissa Allen says it has been a long and difficult period of their life the last few years.

“It’s been extremely emotional,” said Allen. “We’re not the only ones who have been affected–neighbors have also been affected by what’s going on behind their properties as well.”