LAKEWOOD — For more than 20 years, Trailblazer Stadium has morphed with the changing demands of prep sports in Jefferson County.
The most evident change came in the summer of 2008. The stadium located just south of Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood had synthetic turf installed due to the increasing demand of one of the quickest growing sports — lacrosse — in Colorado.
It’s the only all synthetic turf at Jeffco’s four stadium complexes — North Area Athletic Complex, Lakewood Memorial Field, Jeffco Stadium and Trailblazer Stadium.
“The growth of lacrosse was the driving force to make Trailblazer a synthetic surface,” said Ezra Paddock, Manager of Stadium Operations for Jeffco Public Schools. “The popularity of the sport lead to more and more schools adding lacrosse programs, which meant we would host more games.”
Ten years ago, Trailblazer hosted 35 boys lacrosse games on its then natural grass surface. This spring, the stadium that opened in 1996 will host more than 100 boys and girls lacrosse games during just more than a 60-day stretch.
“Couple that with the time of year lacrosse is played (March & April), synthetic surface was definitely the right choice for our schedule,” Paddock said. “Our synthetic surface has also been a great tool for our athletic department. We have been able to host additional rentals and juggle our schedule around when necessary.”
While Trailblazer has been the workhorse when it comes to the spring lacrosse, the stadium is also busy during the fall hosting nearly 30 football games. The facility was originally planned to replace the old Reed Street Stadium in Wheat Ridge that was demolished in the mid-1990s to make way for the Stevens Elementary/Wheat Ridge Middle School campus.
Trailblazer also had numerous rentals throughout the year which includes Colorado Christian University men’s and women’s soccer programs. However, the first priority for the facility is to serve the students who attend Jeffco Public Schools.
The Adapted Athletics program run by Bryan Wickoren, Adapted Physical Education Coordinator for Jeffco Public School, had utilized Trailblazer with the growth of its district-wide program.
“The student-athletes with special needs that participate in the Jeffco Adapted Athletics benefit greatly in the availability of having an outstanding facility such as Trailblazer Stadium,” Wickoren said.
Trailblazer is the site of Jeffco’s Adapted Athletics’ Soccer Day and Football Day.
“The facility allows for multiple games to be played at once which allows students with physical ability to participate alongside their peers,” Wickoren said. “The artificial turf allows students in manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs and walkers to participate with success. Trailblazer Stadium is a facility that was constructed in mind to allow maximum participate with minimal barriers for students with disabilities. It’s a first class facility.”
Green Mountain High School graduate Tyler Dirschl has been the stadium manager at Trailblazer since July 2015.
“It’s kind of my dream job,” said Dirschl, who graduated from Green Mountain in 2012.
Dirschl started working for the school district as a hurdle boy for track meets at Jeffco Stadium when he was 15. He stayed within the athletic department at Jeffco after graduating from Green Mountain.
So what does the future hold for Trailblazer Stadium?
Jim Thyfault, Executive Director of Athletics, hopes that seating expansion will be possible. Paddock and Dirschl agree that there could be some upgrades for the versatile athletic complex. Adding more bleachers, building a new press box and restructuring the team building to include locker rooms, restrooms and concessions all in one building are some of the future modernizations hopefully in store for Trailblazer down the road.
NOTE: This is the third part of a four-part series this school year on Jeffco Public Schools’ stadium venues — North Area Athletic Complex, Lakewood Memorial Field, Trailblazer Stadium and Jeffco Stadium.