HOW TO HELP
Anyone who wishes to donate to the indoor batting cage and practice facility may call Gordon Lee High School at 706-382-3100. Press ext. 3, then ext. 4.
The girls softball team at Gordon Lee High School made history in 2010 with the first undefeated season, 38-0, in Georgia High School Association fastpitch history.
Yet the champion Lady Trojans lacked a locker room at their ballfield, which is on Crittenden Avenue a distance away from the historic high school's campus in downtown Chickamauga.
But change is coming. Construction is under way on an indoor facility with batting cages, space to practice pitching and fielding and an equipment storage room in which Chickamauga players can change clothes.
"A big thing is, the kids are going to have somewhere to change before practice," said softball coach Dana Mull, who led her team to back-to-back Class A state championships in 2010 and 2011. "Some of them, they'll park around the corner and change in their car."
Greg Ellis, one of the school's two athletics directors, said players at Ringgold, Ridgeland and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe high schools already have indoor practice facilities.
"We're just trying to provide our athletes with the best opportunities that everyone else has," he said.
The new facility will stand between the school's softball and baseballs field and incorporate the concrete slab of a previous open, metal-roofed batting cage. Made of decorative concrete block with a shingled roof, the new building's footprint will be 100 feet by 47 feet -- about 50 percent larger than its open predecessor.
On Wednesday, a crew was pouring concrete footing for the walls. Over the course of the build, parents with construction skills are donating labor, and businesses are reducing the price of materials and labor, Ellis said.
A donor who wishes to remain anonymous is loaning money to help cover the building's estimated $60,000 cost, Ellis said.
Ellis anticipated it will take two years to pay back the donor through pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners and the like from Gordon Lee alumni and others proud of the school's ball-diamond prowess.
"There's great pride for Gordon Lee High School from everyone who's ever been involved with it," he said. "It's a total community effort."
Mike Dunsee, the new boys baseball coach, said construction could be finished by the end of the boys' season, which began Monday.
He said an indoor practice facility is important for his team, since the first day of practice is in late January and tryouts are in mid-February.
"If it's raining, freezing, snow and what-not, you can't do anything," Dunsee said.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.