If you have driven past the Charleston school district on Highway 22 lately, you have probably noticed construction taking place near the football stadium locker room and coaches offices. The new building is an indoor practice facility that includes artificial turf and batting cages to support the school’s football, baseball, and softball programs. The facility has the capability to serve many programs by providing a dry and climate controlled environment during inclement weather.
In a recent interview with Charleston head football coach Ricky May, the Tigers head coach spoke about what an asset the new facility will be to his and other sports programs at Charleston high school. “It’s going to be really nice. It has a 50, 40, 30 (football field yard lines) and then it has some room on the other end. The biggest thing is, when they built it, Mr. Stubblefield had them put a lot of doors in it, and there are two big fans . And so, when it is 100 degrees outside, we can go inside and turn those fans on and open those doors and it will probably drop the temperature ten or fifteen degrees. And that is the biggest thing; that and when it is wet and stormy, we can be inside, as well. It is going to be big for us.”
The new artificial turf field inside the facility actually runs across the width of the building. To the casual observer, one might wonder why it does not run the length of the building. I asked Coach May this question, and he said, “Instead of running East to West, it runs North to South. The reason for this is so that we (the football team) would have the full width of the field and that we can run bubble screens, and any type of play that we want to practice from side-to-side. and that is why we installed it sideways. When I first heard I thought that it was silly, but now that I see the field, it is a whole lot better. We would not have had a full width of the field if it had been installed the other way. With us being a spread offense, we thought we needed a field that would allow us to line up right and all of that stuff.”
The facility will allow the Tigers to practice indoors on turf for their home and away games that will be played on artificial turf, regardless of the weather conditions during the week. The program has also made plans to have a grass practice field for the weeks the Tigers will play away from home on grass fields. “Hopefully, when the building is completed, some of that grass (in the vicinity of the new building) will grow back where we need it to be. We will play a lot of games on grass; so if it is muddy and sloppy, we will have to find at least one day in the practice week where we can practice on grass. That will be either beside the building, or, we may go across the street to the park. We would need to do our team offense and defense preparation there and just get used to the muddy part (when preparing to play an away game on a muddy field).”
The building is not quite complete at the publication time, but is quickly nearing completion. “It is almost finished. They are just now installing the artificial turf. They are installing the rubber base to the turf. There are a couple of places that the painters need to touch up. They are going to pour some sidewalks around the building, as well. But, as far as it being good enough to get in, it should be ready today or Tuesday. That will be good.”
Charleston football players reported for summer practice approximately three weeks ago. “We have kind of used this as an acclamation period to get them back into shape; weight lifting, running, and that kind of deal. Hopefully, we are going to go full speed next week as far as getting back to lifting, and that type of thing. We are looking forward to that type of thing. I am hoping that they (Arkansas Activities Association) will extend what we can do when we get into July. Maybe at least get to do some seven-on-seven drills. We just don’t know yet.”
The new facility will not include a new weight room, and existing weight equipment will not be moved into the facility. The building will be used strictly for field work (team offense, defense, and scrimmage work) for the football program, and will have retractable batting cages for indoor batting practice for baseball and softball. “The just has one restroom and the rest will be used for field work. They are going to put up a couple of batting cages in there for baseball and softball to hit indoors, and they are going to be retractable so they can be pulled back. It looks huge right now because we haven’t been in it. So, hopefully, after we have been practicing in it, it will still seem huge.”
The original quote for the facility was approximately $1.5 million. But former Charleston superintendent, Jeff Stubblefield, sub-contacted each of the labor areas and reduced the cost to the district significantly. “Mr. Stubblefield said that if had not sub-contracted everything out, it probably would have been about $1.5 million or a little more. But, because he did the contracting out, he did a lot of work himself, we saved quite a bit of money.” I asked Coach May if there was any private money or donations in the funding of the facility, and Coach May said, “Not that I know of. But this project was in the works before I was hired as head football coach. They already had the plans and were just waiting to get started. So, to be honest, I really don’t know a lot about the building or its financing. I was just excited that we were getting it!”
The overall project may contain the ability to expand in the future to include new weight room space for the program. “It is possible that once we get the building finished, then what I remember is that they are considering expanding the field house out a little bit toward the road and maybe extend on to the current locker rooms and move the coaches offices into one of the locker rooms and then the current coaches office can be part of the weight room.”
The new indoor practice facility adds to an already very impressive collection of athletic facilities in the Charleston athletic department. Alumni Field is one of the best high school football stadiums in Arkansas; especially in Class 3A. Tiger Center, hosts of past state Class 3A championship playoffs, along with great baseball and softball complexes, sets Charleston apart with respect to its commitment to the support of its student-athletes. And now, the addition of a new indoor practice facility valued in excess of $1million has added to their commitment to their players. This commitment is something the citizens and alumni of Charleston can continue to be very proud of now and in the future.
Congratulations to the Charleston board of education, the administration, former superintendent Jeff Stubblefield, current superintendent Melissa Moore, and the great people of Charleston for making this project a reality for their school district and community.