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Yellow Jackets settle in
062812 SEB STADIUM 1
A worker exits after installing goal posts at the new Southeast Bulloch High stadium Thursday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

BROOKLET – A month from now, the Southeast Bulloch football squad will strap up the pads to begin another season. When they do, they’ll be practicing and playing in one of the nicest athletic complexes around.

Over the last five years, Bulloch County has improved the athletic facilities at Portal and Statesboro, and although Southeast Bulloch is the final school to receive the improvements, there is no denying that the Yellow Jackets’ are thrilled with the upgrades.

According to SEB athletic director Jack Webb, the total cost of the renovations and construction is $4.5 million.

Two years in the making, the renovations and construction are nearing completion. SEB will have a brand new football stadium and track, along with a new field house, concession stands, bathrooms and fully renovated locker rooms and weight rooms built into the old gymnasium.

Adding a touch of the old to go with the new, the school has also salvaged its old agricultural barn. The structure will now serve as a covered area where teams can beat the heat, stay out of the rain, or set up water stations and training supplies.

"We are thrilled with how everything has turned out," SEB coach Pat Collins said. "The new facilities are top notch, but things are really great because of the functionality of it all.

"Now, the football team has the weight room, locker room and the practice and playing fields all right here."

The highlight of the project – SEB’s new stadium that features improved safety precautions in field dimensions and increased seating – will first be showcased during football season, but there is more than just one team benefitting from the new additions. The field will host the Jackets’ soccer squads in the spring while the track and field teams will have a brand new track to run on.

Additionally, the renovations made to the old gymnasium have increased the school’s ability to accommodate multiple practice sessions for other teams. By maximizing the usefulness of the existing structures, SEB is now able to streamline its schedule.

"I’m very happy with the way these improvements have helped us out in the summer," Collins said. "Right now, we’ve got football, basketball and wrestling all trying to go through their summer routines. Before, all of the teams had to sacrifice a bit because of our limitations. Now, all of our teams are able to get the time and space that they need."

Though he’ll never get to play a down in the new stadium, former Yellow Jacket standout and current Georgia Southern freshman Jamal Johnson is pleased with what he sees at his old stomping grounds.

"Ever since the construction first started, people were getting excited," Johnson said. "I know that this year’s team is going to be pumped up to go out there and play well on the new field."

"That’s just how it is. Kids like new stuff," Collins said. "This new field and these new locker rooms will never make a tackle or score a touchdown for us, but you can see that extra spark in our kids because they know that they’re a part of all of this."

The generations of SEB athletes to come will be the showcase for the new facilities, but there are plenty of people who won’t suit up in blue and yellow that have made the plan a reality.

J.W. Buckley and Associates provided the architecture and engineering while Pope Construction has transformed the SEB grounds from a leveled off patch of dirt this past winter to a pristine stadium ready to host thousands of cheering fans.

Collins had high praise for both firms in delivering a great product to his school, and also recognizes plenty of others as integral parts of the project.

"The Board of Education has done a fantastic job for us," Collins said. "I’ve been coaching around here since 1990 and I can see that the board really understands the role of recreation and sports in our schools."

Collins also pointed out the constant work of Assistant Superintendant Charles Wilson, as well as SEB principal Dr. Trey Robertson and athletic director Jack Webb in ensuring that the best possible plans were put into place.

Now, with the locker rooms and weight rooms already being utilized and football season quickly approaching, the new stadium sits quietly in anticipation of the thousands of great Yellow Jacket moments that it will play host to.

"The first time the team runs out on that field, it’s going to be crazy," Johnson said. "We’ve got great fans and a great community that supports that school and helps to get things like (this project done). I know that everyone at SEB is going to love the improvements and do their best to make everyone proud of what they can do on that field."

 

Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.