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The Signal Mountain Lacrosse League now has regular use of certain Hamilton County fields in Shackleford Ridge Park near Signal Mountain Middle/High School. / Staff file photo by C.B. Schmelter

After years of struggling to find places to play, Signal Mountain Lacrosse League's field scheduling woes are finally being resolved.

After working extensively with Signal Mountain Middle/High School administration, as well as coaches of various sports teams and leagues that use the fields located next to the school at Hamilton County's Shackleford Ridge Park, Tifni Herlevic, president of the league's board of directors, said the school and county have granted the league permission to fix up a field on the property for its use.

The field — the first on the left when driving toward SMMHS on Sam Powell Drive — is used by the middle school football team in the fall. The lacrosse league previously used the field for games, but because there's no drainage, it's too wet in the spring for use during lacrosse season, Herlevic said.

Several years ago, the head of the Tennessee Scholastic Lacrosse Association stopped a game in the middle because he deemed the field unsafe, and told the league that the association would no longer send referees to games held at that field, she continued.

Since then, Herlevic has been working with the school and county to schedule field space wherever possible. Practice locations were identified through a day-to-day text stream, and the league had to rent fields for games.

The lacrosse league has agreed to pay to fix the field for year-round use, including adding French drains and widening it to regulation length, as well as to maintain the field during its season.

The football team will continue to use the field in the fall, when it will be responsible for its maintenance.

Field preparations are set to begin in March. Until then, the high school football team is allowing the lacrosse league to use its practice field for games. The football coach also agreed to allow the high school lacrosse team to use the stadium for its Senior Night and possibly for several more games depending on the weather, she said.

"I'm really thankful for the football coach for working with us," said Herlevic.

For practice, the girls' lacrosse team has been given permission to use one of the county fields at Shackleford Ridge Park that's used by the rec soccer league; the middle school boys have use of the band field; and the high school boys have use of the field also used by the high school soccer team.

"All the fees we're paying to those organizations are really fair and help [the other teams] with maintenance costs," said Herlevic. "It's just amazing to have all our kids practicing on campus."

The league plans to repair the field in phases, beginning with widening the field and adding turf at an estimated cost of $16,000. The next phase is the fencing, estimated at $18,000.

Part of the funds will be raised through the Feb. 8 Signal Mountain Middle/High School Sports Boosters auction, when the lacrosse program will have $6,000 worth of items up for bidding. The league has also received lots of donations from families on top of fees, and Herlevic is confident they'll have enough to fund the first phase this spring.

This resolution to the scheduling issues of the lacrosse league, the newest sports league on the mountain, comes just as the sport's popularity is quickly growing. Along with soccer, lacrosse is one of the two fastest-growing sports on the mountain, Mayor Dan Landrum said during his recent State of the Town address.

High school lacrosse is set to become a sanctioned sport in Tennessee in the spring of 2022, and the high school team could be brought under the SMMHS umbrella as soon as the 2021 season.

Email Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com.

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