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Sul Ross Motorcycle Safety Course "On Hold" Due to Construction

(photo: Natalie Pattillo/KRTS)

The motorcycle safety course at Sul Ross State University in Alpine has been “on hold” due to the construction of the new field house at Jackson Field. Now the fate of the motorcycle program is uncertain.

Construction on the field house started last month and will include new facilities for the home team, an upgrade to the current locker room for the visiting team and a student weight-training area.

This construction, though, displaces the motorcycle safety course. This class was taught on one of the parking lots at Jackson Field, but it now doesn't meet the safety requirements, mandated by the Texas Department of Public Safety, to hold the class.

Program manager and rider coach Mike Latta said he didn't know this was coming. He found out at the beginning of July when construction began.

“And this kinda blindsided us, because we didn't have, I guess, any indication til they said the construction was gonna start,” said Latta.

He usually tries to schedule the courses through the university about six months in advance, so it won’t interfere with the football games at Jackson Field. Instead, he learned the upcoming classes would interfere with construction.

The construction project happened pretty quickly. According to Jim Clouse, Associate Vice President for Facilities Planning at Sul Ross, the university received a forgivable loan from the Texas State University Foundation. The catch was that the loan had to be used immediately. Although Sul Ross has been planning these renovations for years, construction began as soon as funding was received.

The renovations for the Sul Ross field house are scheduled for completion in October, but Latta said the course cannot return there. The new field house expands into the parking lot, so even after the project is done, the parking lot will not meet the size requirements for the motorcycle safety class.

Now, the motorcycle program could relocate to another parking lot, and Latta said he has looked into it. In fact, there's one parking lot that could be a potential replacement, but there's a problem. The parking lot has three light poles that would need to be removed or relocated.

But who would cover the cost to remove these poles? Currently, the course fee is $175 per student for 20 hours. The fees could be raised, but there's a tuition cap also mandated by the State of $235 per student.

Both Latta and Clouse said they have talked about this issue, but with no clear solution. In the meantime, people interested in taking the required motorcycle safety course will have to travel as far as El Paso or Midland. Latta said that those classes are presented in the same way as his course, but they're usually taken over two or three days.

“So you can imagine if you only had to go to Midland and find a room for two days, what that would be like,” said Latta.

Latta said that he has had to turn away 15 potential students, including two from Austin and Terlingua. Since the class' inception 12 years ago, the program has averaged about 70 to 80 students a year. The classes were held once a month, for eight students at a time. He said about 50 faculty and staff from Sul Ross have completed the course, including Clouse.