On the extreme southwest edge of Amarillo, it stands starkly isolated amidst the sprawling dirt landscape of the Texas Panhandle, a reminder of the development in that part of Randall County which necessitated its construction in the first place.
Tuesday evening, the public got to see the finished product as West Plains High School, the area’s newest high school and the third built by Canyon Independent School District, hosted an open house. Parents, students, teachers and coaches got an up-close look at the facility they’ll call home, which is the epitome of the bigger and better theme.
West Plains looks ready to go in just about every aspect, including athletics. Goal posts are set up for the football fields, which will be hosting two-a-days in the next few weeks. The gyms where basketball and volleyball will conduct games and practices are shiny and new, as yet unspoiled by activity.
Kevin Richardson, who will be the first girls basketball coach at West Plains after leading powerhouse programs at Canadian (where he won a state championship) and Wall, said that the gym floor had just been finished when he visited the campus in its developmental stages last spring. There are still signs of development, as at least one-third of a football practice field was still dirt with grass having yet to grow.
“The parking lot was dirt, and the wind was blowing 90 mph and I was thinking why would I come back up here with all this dirt blowing?,” said Richardson, a Canyon High graduate who spent the last three years leading Wall’s program. “It’s a fantastic facility. It’s a great practice gym with a lot of space and the ability to get a lot of kids involved in the program.”
Getting students involved in activities and academics as frequently as possible seems to be the goal on the oh-so-modern campus. There are large cubicles called collaborative spaces, which are carpeted and furnished with comfortable chairs and tables. The school’s front office and auxiliary areas resemble business spaces found in larger airports and chain hotels.
With every coaching position in every sport open as a new school, these facilities were an obvious drawing card in bringing in personnel. Kendall Cogburn, who is also a CISD graduate from Randall, will take over as the West Plains boys basketball coach after successful stints at Happy and Bushland.
“It’s exciting,” said Cogburn, who said he hadn’t seen the West Plains campus until after he interviewed for the job.” I thought they did a great job in designing everything. It looks great and it’s going to be an awesome environment for high school basketball. We can’t wait to get started.”
“Any time you’ve got a new school and new buildings it’s exciting. A big part of building a great athletic program is having great facilities.”
Cogburn said he’s been able to take a look at potential players with camps in the gym starting in June.
But the first boys sport everyone will have their eyes on, of course, when school officially starts, is football. Coach Adam Cummings and his staff weren’t present at the open house because they were attending the Texas High School Coaches Association convention in San Antonio.
West Plains principal Eric Gomez said that the quality of facilities on campus will help the Wolves establish an identity outside the school.
“It’s definitely a diamond in the rough,” Gomez said. “It’s something that’s a big attraction. When you’re going out and looking for coaches this definitely helps at a brand-new school. The first coach to win a game here is big time.”
That will likely come in the fall either in football or volleyball. To stir up the bandwagon, West Plains Wolves clothing and souvenirs were available in the large cafeteria, which will offer, among other things, Mexican and Italian options for lunch.
In terms of competition, though, West Plains will, for the time being, be third among CISD schools in the competitive pecking order. West Plains will draw the majority of its students from those who went to Randall, with others having gone to Canyon.
That means little time for the athletes to blend together in a new system. In effect, the Wolves will be like the high school equivalent of an expansion team.
Richardson knows his team will be facing challenges against long-established programs in Randall and Canyon both of whom have won multiple state titles. But he thinks winning will come sooner rather than later.
“Whether it’s cross country, volleyball or basketball we have expectations,” Richardson said. “We’re treading uphill a little bit early, but we think at some point we can compete with those teams who are around us. The growth that this place can bring will lead to some great things in the future.”
Regardless, there will be excitement when the Wolves host the other Canyon ISD schools in district play in 2022-23. That experience alone will be worth it for the athletes and student body in the school’s maiden voyage.
“It’s definitely kind of in the back of everyone’s mind when you come in here and imagine this gym being in a big rivalry game and being packed,” Cogburn said. “I just know it’s going to be a fun environment to play in.”
It will be a challenge for West Plains to join a district with schools who have already established championship traditions the way Canyon and Randall have. Soon, all the West Plains teams will show what their home has to offer.
Gomez said that the fellow CISD schools have provided a standard to live up to. West Plains has the facilities to do that, but Gomez thinks it will be up to the coaches and athletes to provide the identity.
“We can’t wait for that,” Gomez said of competing with the established neighbor schools. “We have a beautiful facility, and all the bells and whistles are here but it’s just walls right now. Until we get staff and students, that’s when we have that foundation of tradition and culture, and that’s when West Plains High School takes on a character.”