Stadium upgrades

Among the proposals for improvements at Bear Stadium is a new ticket booth, larger than the current one pictured above, concession stand and new bathrooms.

Bear Stadium, the home of the state champion Pierce County Bears — and its baseball field — may soon be getting a face lift.

The Board of Education voted at its regular meeting Monday night to begin the design process – including obtaining cost estimates — for renovations at Bear Stadium and the Bears Baseball Field.

The decision came following an exhaustive, two-hour long presentation on high school facility improvements and needs at Thursday morning’s work session.

PCHS principal Kelly Murray made a presentation outlining salvaging a portion of the old high school and making improvements to the athletic facilities at the school. The board did not take action on the request to salvage the old high school. (See related story.)

Murray was accompanied by Athletic Director Brandon “Rock” Jernigan, Bears head football coach Ryan Herring and Bears head baseball coach Andrew Evans. Murray and Jernigan gave an overview of the facility requests, while Herring talked about football facilities and Evans talked about baseball facilities.

“We realize there are needs and there are luxuries, but we wanted to bring you all the information for the board to make a decision,” said Murray.

Among improvements suggested for Bear Stadium is the construction of a multipurpose facility at the entrance which would feature multiple ticket booth stations on the front and concession stands on the back side. Bathrooms would be added to the front side corners for both the home and visitors sides. They would be located separate from the concession stands to help with crowd control. Currently, all three facilities are located next to each other.

Murray used the facility at  Bacon County’s Morris Johnson Stadium as an example of what could be built at Bear Stadium.

“We would double the number of ticket windows from four to eight and (that) would help us get our crowd into the stadium quicker,” Murray explained.

Tongue in cheek, he also stoked a little cross-county rivalry.

“Bacon County’s facility should not be better than ours,” he said with a smile.

Murray noted the visual of the current brand new high school alongside the drab, gray look of the stadium is stark.

“We would like to just make it more visibly pleasing as well,” he said.

Murray said the addition of more bathrooms would be a much needed improvement and eliminate a long held “source of embarrassment” at the stadium’s current restroom facilities.

The proposal also calls for a concrete plaza to be installed the length of the front entrance, with a concrete walkway all the way to the home side bleachers.

Plans also call for installing wrought iron fence instead of chain link fence and improvements to the press box to make more room for the audio visual team.

Murray also pointed out the bleachers on the visitors side present some safety issues with separation between planks and also with slickness. He also noted the openness underneath the stadium, which leads to lots of lost items underneath including cell phones, coats, jackets, band instrument parts and keys.

The luxury wish list included the purchase and installation of artificial turf on the playing surface at an estimated cost of $750,000.

Herring said he realizes it is a luxury, but he pointed out schools smaller than Pierce, like Metter and Cook, already have it.

“The upfront cost is significant, but there won’t be any maintenance or upkeep for years after that,” he said.

Evans asked for a dressing room/locker room facility and backstop/hitting facility for the baseball field. Currently, the baseball team has to use the facilities at the field house.

After the lengthy presentation, second district board member Mitch Hall asked for some simplification.

“All this information is like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hose,” he said.

New first district board member Kirby Malone agreed.

Malone suggested the board involve the system’s architect and get cost estimates on the work.

Superintendent Dara Bennett also suggested board members take a tour of all the facilities in the presentation.

The schedule for the tour is to be announced.