Steamboat schools prioritize football players’ safety with new helmets, new field lights
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Wednesday, Sept. 4 to include more complete information on the fundraising efforts to purchase the helmets.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — While the full renovation of Gardner Field is complete, there are a few more new things to appreciate this year. The lights illuminating the brand new astroturf, which were part of the original bond deal that funded the field renovation in 2017, are brand new energy-efficient LED bulbs.
“Really, it’s just one more step to bring Gardner up-to-date and get it to be a state-of-the-art facility that is also reflective of all the safety issues and concerns of all of our sports,” Steamboat Springs High School Athletic Director Luke DeWolfe said.
There are four posts with eight fixtures in two rows, each one fitted with a shield that aims the light down on the field rather than out into the surrounding homes.
“We wanted to do what we could when we rebuilt the stadium to honor our neighbors that surround us. We did a lot with our sound systems, so we reduce a lot of the noise from the sound system,” DeWolfe said. “The lights are in the same realm. There’s a lot less bleeding with the light. They just light up the venue.”
Unlike older bulbs, these lights don’t need a warm-up time. They flick right on and off just like any lamp at home.
The matte black helmets on the Sailors football players are new, too. This summer, the team purchased VICIS Zero1 Youth helmets, which received the highest rating awarded for a youth helmet. The Virginia Tech helmet rating awarded the VICIS Zero1 Youth five stars. The VICIS website says the ‘compact design is tailored to youth anatomies and offers the industry’s widest field of view, allowing young players to see more of the field and react more quickly to potential impacts.’
An initial donation of $5,000 from Adonna Allen of Alpine Bank began the massive fundraising effort. From there 22 total donors around the community helped raise $78,000 over the course of six weeks to purchase the helmets.
The donors were honored with a tailgate ahead of the season opener.
With the rise of knowledge surrounding concussions and brain damage, head safety and concussion protocols have gotten stricter. Safety is a top concern for the Steamboat athletics staff.
“It’s our number one priority,” DeWolfe said. “First and foremost the kids are kept safe in every aspect, on the field and off the field. This is just one more thing we felt we could do to give those kids that much of an advantage. Hopefully, it’ll translate to fewer injuries. I think it’s our responsibility to do everything we can do to keep these kids safe.”
The concern doesn’t stop at the high school, as even the middle school football program got new VICIS Zero1 Youth helmets.
“We felt those kids are just as important, and it was just as meaningful to keep them in the most up-to-date, cutting-edge helmet that we could,” DeWolfe said. “That seventh-grader is just as important as a 12th-grader playing varsity.”
The throwing pits between Gardner and Spring Creek are also nearing completion.
“They’re actually ahead of schedule,” DeWolfe said. “I don’t know exactly how far, but they’re ahead of schedule. They’re working at a really amazing pace getting that field done. We’re hopeful it’ll be done, at the latest, in October.”
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