VARNELL, Ga. - Chip Fleming took one look at the weight room at the soon-to-open Coahulla Creek High School and let out a quick "Wow!"
When the newest northwest Georgia school opens next month, it will usher in a new level of athletic-facility excellence. From a college-like gymnasium that has a drop-down four-sided scoreboard, is equipped with 20,000 square feet of wood and has a 200-meter track above it, to football, baseball and softball fields equipped with wireless Internet access, the Colts will compete in luxury.
The 1,500-square-foot weight room is adjacent to the gym and has a glass front that overlooks the football practice field. The room is filled with 14 work stations of top-of-the-line Sorinex equipment - the same equipment seen in such universities as Miami, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Ohio State and Duke.
"High schools don't have that kind of equipment," beamed Fleming, the school's associate athletic director, head track coach and assistant football coach. "It's every bit of $150,000, but the administration looked at it, honestly, as a one-time thing and they wanted to hit a home run.
"Your weight room is the foundation of your entire athletic program, so why not get the best? It just represents what our principal, Dr. Phillip Brown, wants for this school - the best."
Brown, a former teacher and principal at Dalton High School, does not take the credit for the quality of facilities but agreed that he believes the students deserve the best.
"The main thing we wanted was to be as flexible as possible with the facilities, and to do that we needed the best equipment," said Brown, who said the gym is his favorite facility. "We're not just training football players. We're training all the athletes, and this equipment is the most versatile we could find - and it was the safest."
Construction crews are still putting the finishing touches on the school, including the track surrounding the football field. The asphalt has been laid but has to sit 30 days before the high-tech rubberized surface can be applied.
The football field will be ready for the school's first home game Aug. 29. Among the amenities are a huge fieldhouse complete with locker room and coaches' offices, a Colt statue and a walkway from the parking lot across the creek that will be lighted from underneath.
Like Fleming, football coach Jared Hamlin was amazed when he saw what was to be built.
"Where I came from, our football facility was across the street," said Hamlin, who came from the state of Florida. "Here, with everything being right here on campus, is nice, and we plan to have a great Friday-night experience for the fans. We have a locker room right by our practice field, and our game stuff is right by our game field. Having an indoor track that goes all around the gym is great because we can get some things done even if we get bad weather.
"They've done such an amazing job here with the facilities. Everything is top-notch."