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Facelifts for Bulloch athletics facilities
Nearly $8M earmarked for local schools' facilities
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Construction plans

Southeast Bulloch — $3.8 million
  New stadium/track — $1.8 million
  Renovation of old gym — $800,000
  Concession/bathroom building — $500,000
  Soccer/practice field — $200,000

Statesboro — $3.7 million
  Field house —$2.2 million
  Construction of tennis courts —$500,000
  Renovation of old gym — $200,000
  Baseball/softball storage facility — $200,000

Portal — $200,000
  Renovation of football field house — $200,000

 

    High school athletic facilities throughout Bulloch County will get a facelift during the coming year as nearly $8 million is earmarked for new construction and renovation of existing facilities at Statesboro High, Southeast Bulloch and Portal.
    Topping the list of projects is a field house for Statesboro that will house locker rooms, offices and storage space for football and spring sports.
    Following the upcoming football season, Southeast Bulloch's current stadium will be torn down to make way for a 2,500 seat stadium — complete with a track — to be constructed during the winter.
    All of the money for the athletic facilities projects comes from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) that was used to fund recent construction of new classroom buildings for all three schools.
    “Our first priority was to build all of the new schools and get all of our technological and classroom needs taken care of,” said Charles Wilson, assistant superintendent of Business and Finance. “Now that we've done that, we're able to circle back around and address improvements that we want to make in our athletic facilities.”
    Time is of the essence as Bulloch's Board of Education strives to solve issues that have arisen with some of the facilities recently.
    Most notable is a safety concern with the current football and soccer field at SEB. Under the current GHSA regulations, the fence and bleachers - which are approximately 10 feet from the field of play - are too close and pose the risk of injury. As a result, SEB is not eligible to host postseason events on the field.
    Next November, construction will begin on what is now the site of the track and field venue to build the new stadium. With a track included into the design, the stands at the new venue will be moved to a safer distance from the field that will meet GHSA standards.
    “This is the issue that most needs to be addressed,” said Wilson. “We considered many options, including the possibility of moving the existing stands back. In the end, we decided to build an entirely new facility that will cover both football and track. We felt that this offers the most efficient solution and eliminates the problem of a lack of space that we could have run into by keeping the field in its current location.”
    At a projected cost of $2.2 million dollars, the new field house at SHS is the single largest scheduled undertaking of the project.
    During the renovation of Womack Field, the spring sports complex - housing locker rooms, offices and storage facilities for baseball, soccer, and track and field - was removed. To alleviate the spacing constraints that have arisen since that time, the field house will feature multiple locker rooms, along with the renovation of existing locker rooms in the old gym - which will be kept as additional practice space.
    “We've designed the field house at Statesboro to be as efficient as possible,” said Wilson. “It will be able to house both home and away teams during football season, while providing space for multiple sports during the spring. We want to make sure that all students have access to the facilities instead of only one sport using a particular locker room or weight room. We feel that this is the best use of the taxpayers' money.”
    An improved field house is also in store for Portal's football stadium, as the locker rooms and offices already in place will be upgraded.
    While Portal is slated to receive just $200,000 worth of construction in the project, many other improvements to athletic facilities have already been covered in the cost of the new school, which will open its doors in the fall.
    “Many of the things we're doing at Portal have already been accounted for,” said Wilson. “The cost of the new gym and new locker rooms goes along with the $15 million that we are investing into the building of the new school. We'll also be moving the weights out of the football field house into a brand new weight room that will be inside the school.”
    While the Board of Education will oversee the final planning and construction of all facilities, the project has been a team effort. Athletic directors Ken LeCain (Statesboro), Katherine Bradley (SEB), and Stephen Hoyle (Portal) all contributed input in order to identify the changes most needed by their respective schools and all are happy with the final results.
    Additional items that will be covered as a part of the project include the construction of six tennis courts at Statesboro High, the renovation of the old gym and a new practice field at SEB, and the construction of a storage facility for baseball and softball equipment at Mill Creek Regional Park, which Statesboro will continue to use as its home field.
    Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.