Those in attendance for the Cartersville High graduation last Friday almost certainly enjoyed the ability to watch a close-up view of the event on the Weinman Stadium scoreboard atop the front of the high school’s still-under-construction field house.
While everyone probably would have preferred the rest of the multi-million dollar facility to have been completed — or at least the exterior of the building — by graduation, it shouldn’t be too much longer before the Canes football program has its new home.
“I’d say we’re probably about 90-95%,” Cartersville City School Board vice president Travis Popham said Tuesday. “… We’re on track, if everything goes right on the construction side of it, to be done about the second week of June.”
Popham, who serves as chairman for the board’s building and grounds committee, said the facility’s plumbing and electrical work is finished. He added nearly all of the bricks outside and all of the ceramic tiles inside have been laid.
As for the aspects that still need to be completed, Popham's list included installing the rubber floor for the weight room, landscaping around the building and connecting sidewalks to the the rest of campus.
“We’re very pleased,” he said. “… I think they’ve done a great job. They’ve kept it clean. It’s been a little bit of an inconvenience for us, as far as losing access to the road for our buses. We’re nearing the end, so we’ll have that ready to go at the beginning of the [school] year. But we’ve been very pleased.”
With no major deviation from the original plans, aside from a few aesthetic changes, Popham said the project has been able to stay roughly on schedule.
“It’s probably about right on track,” he said. “We wanted to be done about the first week of June, second week of June. So we might be about a week off, but I think that’s pretty good, considering all the rain we’ve had. If it is off, it’s not more than about a week off track.”
On April 9, 2018, the Cartersville school board unanimously approved a budget of $5,798,953.54 from the district’s allotment of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funding to build the facility, which will include locker rooms, showers and a weight room. The budget also included funds for a new visitors press box, which has been completed.
The board hired Bremen-based R.K. Redding Construction, as the primary contractor at a cost of $4,758,763. Shortly after last year’s graduation, which was ultimately moved inside, the company broke ground on the field house.
“We’ve met every month at the end of the month,” Popham said, referring to the building and ground committee. “[R.K. Redding] had their supervisor there, and he’s given us an update every month on their progress.
“He’s told us, here’s how we’re off because of the rain and here’s how we’re going to make it up. They did some things like bring their brick guys in on weekends there for a while to get back on track. They’ve been great about trying to keep it on track.”
One of the attendees at the monthly meetings is Ken Paige, the district’s director of operations with facilities and maintenance. Paige could not be reached for comment, but Popham said, to his knowledge, the project remains on budget.
“I think at the last meeting, Ken said, we were right at budget or maybe even a little better than we had budgeted,” Popham said. “[The delays] hadn’t affected us negatively.”
Assuming construction is completed in the next couple of weeks, any short-term negative impact on the Cartersville football program should also be mitigated. With plans to begin equipping the facility during the third week of June, the Canes should be done with their in-between-homes stage well before fall camp.
The move, while certainly anticipated on all fronts, will be admittedly a bittersweet one for Cartersville’s new head football coach, Conor Foster.
“We’ve been in the same field house, well, at least my entire lifetime,” the 2001 CHS graduate said Wednesday. “The field house we’ve been in is the field house from when I grew up. I spent a lot of time in there as a child, as a young adult. The man I am today is a large reflection of the lessons I learned there, so it’s a little bittersweet for me.
“This transition is taxing a little bit, but I’m excited for where we’ll be in the end. Right now, where we’re at in the process is trying to clean out the old field house, so they can complete renovations. We’ll have a month when we’ll be kind of homeless in between buildings. It will pay off in the end.”
As someone who has been around the Cartersville football program for over a decade, spread between his playing days and his five years on the coaching staff, Foster has seen the school system and community at large continually support the Canes. He sees the field house as the latest, shining example of that belief.
“We’re blessed beyond measure here at Cartersville,” Foster said. “We’ve got a community that believes in our student athletes, believes in our football program and trusts the leadership. It’s a reflection of our great community, not just our football program.
“The inside is certainly going to be state of the art. I’m excited about the future for our program and excited about the commitment our school system and community have shown towards our program.”
That being said, Foster acknowledged how beneficial the new facility’s contents could prove to be for the school’s other athletics programs which will take advantage of the field house.
“I’m excited about the new equipment and the new technology that we’re going to have access to,” he said. “Research continues to press forward. I feel like our program success has been a big reflection of our success in the weight room, and I think that’s true for a lot of our sports.
“I’m excited to see our programs continue to push forward, to continue to be state of the art and continue to try to stay ahead of the curve.”
Well, at least one of those state-of-the-art attributes had the chance to take center stage last week, when the Class of 2019 had its commencement ceremony. However, it wasn’t known until just a few days before the event that the scoreboard would be available for use during graduation.
Popham said the power only began running to the new digital screen the week prior and that test runs were finally made in the days leading up to the ceremony.
Even though the board’s main purpose will be showcased on Friday night’s this fall, Popham felt as though it was a great addition to the graduation festivities.
“That was one of the things we kind of pushed for,” he said. “We told Ken we wanted [the building] to be presentable. I think everybody would have probably liked for a little bit more of the outside to have been done, but for the most part, it was presentable and cleaned up.
“Ken had been telling the high school for weeks, ‘Don’t be expecting the board to be working. We’ll try our best to have it, but don’t hold us to it.’ They actually got it up, got the electricians in there earlier than they had planned and got it running. They had the video crew out there [during] the week before testing it. It was kind of a nice surprise, having that board working for graduation.”