BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
"A dream come true," is what officials declared on Friday afternoon as they celebrated the completion of outdoor facility improvements at Chuckey-Doak High School, the last of the four county high schools to receive the upgrades.
Board member and Building Committee Chairwoman Kathy Crawford made this statement just after she cut the black-and-gold ribbon to officially open the facility.
The fieldhouse has actually been in use since the first Chuckey-Doak home football game this fall, but final touchups were only completed within the past week, and furniture placement is ongoing.
"This project finishes up an important project for all four [high schools'] athletic programs," Board Chairman Roger Jones said.
He noted recent improvements including bleachers at some high schools; Chuckey-Doak's new fieldhouse, concession stand and restroom facilities; the fieldhouses at the other county high schools, and upgrades to the county's agriculture shops.
"This sort of finishes these projects up," Jones said.
"It's something for the east end of the county to be proud of. It turns this from a football field to a football stadium," Jones said of the Chuckey-Doak fieldhouse.
The bleachers on each side of the field now shine in the school's colors, black and gold, while the new concession stand and fieldhouse add to the framing of the field, creating the stadium-like effect.
County Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk estimated that the total cost of the Chuckey-Doak project came in about $60,000 under budget, which was originally estimated at $62,000 for the sewer and site work and almost $524,000 for the actual construction.
"We're just so proud of this facility," she said. "I'm grateful to [Maintenance Director] David Myers and his crew. It's beautiful, and what the school needed."
Head Football Coach Aaron Christian agreed that the old fieldhouse had become a health concern.
Kirk has agreed to let the school use the old building as a storage facility, but has said that it can no longer house students.
"We're obviously really excited," Christian said. "It was more of a need at this point than a want. [The team's] tickled to death. They really feel like they hit the big-time here.
"It's hard to get it out of a football group, but you can tell they're very grateful."
Both Christian and Principal Michael Garland expressed their appreciation for the support they received from Kirk, the County Commission, the County Board of Education, and several local businesses that donated time, materials or furniture for the building.
These included: MECO; Durham Hensley; John Deere Power Products; Terry, Terry & Stapleton; and Walmart Distribution Center.
School Board member Tommy Cobble noted that the fieldhouse does not have an equipped weight room at this time. He estimated the cost to properly equip the room at about $17,000.
The school plans to fund-raise and contact local businesses in order to equip this portion of the fieldhouse, he said.