Barry Sanders football field may get improvements, host marquee youth games

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) - Wichita youth football players will soon play all games at the Stryker complex on the northeast side of the city.

The move means many neighborhood fields will only be practice fields, but not all of them.

The gridiron, is a place where you leave it all on the field. Players running routes and making throws.

And here in Wichita, some say there's no better place to put your skills to the test than at Barry Sanders Field.

"He played here and it is just a historic place for our city and for our kids to enjoy and sometimes emulate some of the things he did here," says Mark Johnson, Director of the Wichita Bears.

"I am trying to make it to the NFL, another Wichita player to make it to the NFL and win the Heisman," says football player OJ Phillips.

The National Football League Hall of Fame running back, Barry Sanders, known for his speed and elusiveness, is an idol. His field is a staple in a north neighborhood, acting as a home for the Greater Wichita Youth Football League for years. But soon players will be lacing up and putting on the pads at Stryker field, as the city transitions all games to the complex about 10 miles away at K-96 and Greenwich.

So what will happen at Barry Sanders Field? City council woman Lavonta Williams says the city is considering making improvements to the field.

"We would hope they would do as much as they could and then maybe we as the city pick up the rest," says Williams.

The city could put in new bleachers and new fencing around the field. But that's not all. Thanks to parent suggestions, Williams says the city wants to keep the lights on, hosting tournament games or a game of the week.

"I think it's something that would help Barry Sanders to understand that we are very proud of the field that he left for Wichita youth to play on, and we are going to keep that up," says Williams.

Mark Johnson says he's excited about the move to Stryker, but he won't forget what this field represents.

So, a chance to still play here and improve it, is a win for his team.

"Whether they are young or whether they are old, everybody knows who Barry Sanders is and to not use this facility would be a tragedy," says Johnson.

Williams says many of the field improvements are centered on making games safer for people watching the game.

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