By Heather Mullinix
The stadium at Cumberland County High School has hosted countless football games and events since it was built almost 50 years ago. Now, the structure is showing its age, with cracked and crumbling concrete, bent aluminum bleachers, and areas with mold and mildew problems.
Students no longer use former locker rooms and weight rooms, and office areas in the building were abandoned years ago.
“We put junk down there [the former central office] until we can get it hauled off because anything we store down there gets covered in mold,” Jon Hall, assistant principal and athletic director, told the Chronicle.
The only areas still in use by the public are restrooms and a concession stand in the lobby area. But those have problems, too, Hall said. There have been leaks in the lobby area and plumbing problems have caused school officials to have to close bathrooms during ball games.
“That’s the most obvious issue the public sees,” Hall said. “Last year, we had to shut the restrooms down just about every game. It’s an almost 50-year-old building with 50-year-old pipes.”
A field house and weight room was built several years ago for the CCHS football team to use. Visitors use the locker rooms in the wrestling complex or the CCHS gymnasium and walk across the parking lot to the field.
Up in the stands, some of the aluminum bleachers are bent. The seating in the student section was removed because of its poor condition and students now sit directly on the concrete.
“We also have a lot of crumbling concrete,” Hall said. The visitors’ end of the stadium was re-bricked after football season ended last fall, improving the appearance, and the school is considering the possibility of doing the same on the other side.
The building and grounds committee of the Cumberland County Board of Education has discussed problems at the stadium in the past. Next week, the panel will recommend the board hire a contractor or engineer to evaluate the extent of structural problems and recommend a course of action to the board.
“I have mixed feelings about the facility,” said Sandy Brewer, 3rd District representative. “Everybody’s saying, ‘You need to fix it. You need to fix it.’ Well, I would really like for the board to let a licensed commercial contractor come in and give it a good going over and tell us exactly what has to be done.
“It might be something that we could do and give that a lifespan of another 25 or 30 years.”
Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle suggested using an engineer that could provide information on the structural integrity. A study several years ago of the structural integrity confirmed the stadium was not in danger of collapse, she added.
Jim Blalock, 8th District representative, noted that school construction projects costing more than $25,000 required using an architect.
“You might as well go that route to begin with,” Blalock said.
Brewer said, “To me, it would be money well spent. Because if they tell us that it’s not worth it, we need to take it down and do what we need to do. And if they say you could spend so much and it would last 30 or 40 years...”
Brewer noted the school board would begin work on its next budget in coming months and needed to plan for the project. VanWinkle said the board would likely have to issue a request for proposals for the project.
“It’s a beautiful facility,” Brewer said. “This is for the county. It really is. We can take that information to the county commission and ask them for help.”
The Cumberland County Board of Education will meet Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. at the Central Office on 4th St.