The two school systems, which share use of the city-owned stadium, are proceeding on two phases of repairs beginning with restructuring bathroom entryways and rewiring the electrical throughout.
The first phase, estimated at about $48,000, is hoped to be complete before football season begins in late August. The second phase, costing about $70,000, consists of repairing the bricks and handrails down both sides of the stadium. Expenses will be split evenly between the two parties.
“We’re working together with the city schools and the city on this, as well as the architects,” said Dan Payant, director of operations and support personnel for Talladega County Schools. “We went ahead and had the architects design the repairs and help prioritize what needed to be done.”
The county schools hired Birmingham-based Lathan Associates Architects to inspect the stadium last year. While it was found to be structurally sound, several safety concerns were identified, beginning with concrete awnings over the stadium’s main entrances that have since been removed. The upcoming repairs are further safety suggestions from the architects, Payant said.
Phase I updates have already begun and will include new breaker boxes and electrical wiring throughout connecting to the main electrical room and concession stand. Bathroom walls will receive additional supports, and the visitor’s side bleachers will be enclosed. Phase II should begin soon after, where masons will repair cracks in the brick along either side of the stadium. Handrails will also be removed and split from one continuous rail into three sections to prevent future cracks caused by expansion and contraction of those materials.
“It’s basically routine maintenance and repairs that need to be done,” Payant said. “One of the things we wanted to try to do pretty quickly is the repairs to the bathroom walls, because that’s something you can’t do while you’re playing football, and the same for the electrical. Some of the masonry work, if we’re not able to get it done before football starts, it can be worked on Monday through Thursday, for the most part.”
Improvements at the 65-year-old stadium have been discussed for several years, but ownership concerns previously halted progress. The facility is used almost daily by Sylacauga High School, a city school, and used roughly 10 times a year by B.B. Comer High School, a county school; however, it is owned by the city. Previously, the city aimed to turn over ownership to one or both schools, expressing insurance concerns, but Mayor Doug Murphree said it will retain ownership for the foreseeable future.
“After talking to the county about it, I came back and talked to the (City Council), and I think everybody agreed that’s what needed to happen, and we didn’t want to leave the county out, nor the city,” Murphree said last week. “We want it to be a stadium for everybody to use, and everybody agreed that’s the best way to do it right now. We’re going to maintain ownership, and then the city and county boards of education will be responsible for most of the maintenance and upkeep.”
He said it has not been decided whether the city will eventually contribute funds to stadium maintenance.
“Right now, we want to make the stadium safe,” Murphree said. “There are some additional matters to work out as we move forward, but right now, we’ve all agreed to do it this way. This is where Sylacauga and Comer play their home football games, so hopefully it’s a start to making the stadium a better and more attractive stadium for the community.”
Sylacauga City Schools Superintendent Todd Freeman said at a Board of Education meeting last week that it was easy to come to an agreement on the repair project.
“The original agreement that the Talladega County and Sylacauga schools had says that on renovations such as this, we will split the costs, so there was never really any question about it,” Freeman said. “We both believe it’s the best thing to do for the stadium to get it prepared and safe for our fans and all our patrons.”
Further renovations at the facility are a possibility, Freeman said, though nothing has been planned at this point.
“The bottom line here is both (school) boards recognize the value of the stadium and of it being in good condition and safe, so that makes for a very positive relationship,” he said. “There are things we need to address at the stadium that go beyond the scope of safety. The age of the facility itself brings about some things we’re going to need to look at and talk about, and there is openness from Talladega County Schools, like there is with us, to talk about that.”
In addition to the school-funded repairs, the Sylacauga Utilities Board is currently relocating a sewer line under the stadium.
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