'No better cause' to give up home court -- Stevenson's Sports Center a vaccination site

  • With the field house at Stevenson High School being used as a COVID-19 vaccination site, the Patriots' basketball teams will be playing all of their home gams in middle school gyms this season, such as this game on Wednesday night when the boys' varsity team hosted Lake Forest at Woodlawn Middle School in Long Grove.

      With the field house at Stevenson High School being used as a COVID-19 vaccination site, the Patriots' basketball teams will be playing all of their home gams in middle school gyms this season, such as this game on Wednesday night when the boys' varsity team hosted Lake Forest at Woodlawn Middle School in Long Grove. PATRICIA BABCOCK MCGRAW | Staff Photographer

  • With the field house at Stevenson High School being used as a COVID-19 vaccination site, the Patriots' basketball teams will be playing all of their home gams in middle school gyms this season, such as this game on Wednesday night when the boys' varsity team hosted Lake Forest at Woodlawn Middle School in Long Grove.

      With the field house at Stevenson High School being used as a COVID-19 vaccination site, the Patriots' basketball teams will be playing all of their home gams in middle school gyms this season, such as this game on Wednesday night when the boys' varsity team hosted Lake Forest at Woodlawn Middle School in Long Grove. PATRICIA BABCOCK MCGRAW | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/11/2021 4:23 PM

The court at Woodlawn Middle School has the same dimensions.

And if Stevenson boys basketball coach Pat Ambrose wanted to pull a Gene Hackman, ala "Hoosiers," and get out his measuring tape, he could prove it.

 

But there's something about playing at a middle school gym instead of a big, swanky, shiny high school sports center with a video scoreboard and training room and weight room facilities that feels just a little bit different.

"And home rims -- that's definitely a real thing. We've been struggling a little bit without our home rims," Stevenson guard Evan Ambrose said with a grin. "But all credit to Stevenson. There's no better cause to be playing somewhere else besides your home than distribution of the vaccine. Obviously, we'd love to play at our home gym. But if there's any reason not to, it's this."

When the IHSA announced recently that high school basketball was back on, officials at Stevenson immediately recognized they were in a bit of a bind. Their main competition gym, the Sports Center, has been designated as a COVID-19 vaccination site by the Lake County Health Department since January and will likely remain that way until April.

That has meant that Stevenson athletic director Trish Betthauser has been scrambling trying to find alternative facilities for all levels of boys and girls basketball, for both practices and competitions.

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The varsity teams are staging their games at Woodlawn Middle School in Long Grove, which sports a full, old-school stage in its gym along one sideline and is where the Stevenson boys hosted Lake Forest on Wednesday. The Patriots are also using Twin Grove Middle School and a couple of elementary school gyms.

Stevenson is hoping to be able to somehow work out a time to stage at least two games, senior night for both the boys and girls varsity basketball teams, at the Sports Center, but that could be tricky with all of the vaccination equipment that is housed there from day to day.

"Our Sports Center has been converted to a full-time vaccination site, so we don't have it at all for anything right now. It's pretty intense," Betthauser said of the mad scramble to find open facilities for everything on her schedule. "And our field house (Stevenson's other on-campus facility with basketball courts) is under construction a little bit. I mean, like orange cones and construction tape when you walk in. So we're down to two usable courts in there from four.

"It's just a lot. In a year when the IHSA has instituted contact days, which is something we've never had before, every sport in the winter, spring and summer is now allowed to have practices essentially. Trying to find space for all these sports has been a challenge."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Luckily, the middle schools and elementary schools in the Stevenson district have been more than accommodating. The basketball teams are not only staging games off site at the middle schools and elementary schools, they are having practices there, too.

"This is a nice facility and Mr. (Greg) Grana, the principal here (Woodlawn) has been unbelievably awesome to us, just giving us so much help and guidance and latitude to do things, you know, like store our balls, come in early, stay late, that kind of stuff," Pat Ambrose said.

"But you know, you miss your home. Stevenson is beautiful with the electronic scoreboard and all kinds of room and space everywhere and a training room and a weight room and a locker room. I mean, we're changing right here (after the Lake Forest game) in the cafeteria (at Woodlawn). Just things like that, just another hurdle. I mean, it's a little hurdle, but it's a hurdle. And there have been a lot of hurdles lately."

And there may be another hurdle looming.

For now, the middle schools and elementary schools in the Stevenson district have not yet resumed their own sports schedules. If, and most likely when that happens, that will cause another set of obstacles for the Stevenson athletic department because gym space will again be tough to come by.

"I fear that (the middle schools and elementary schools) may make that decision (to start up sports) soon. And then, honestly, I don't know what we will do," Betthauser said. "I've been reaching out to every facility in the area that I can possibly think of. But there's nothing available.

"I can't say enough about the staffs from each of the middle schools and elementary schools. They've been great, just amazing, and super accommodating.

"We'll just have to see what happens."

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