DUNLAP, Tenn. - In the football-crazed Sequatchie Valley, where each school takes great satisfaction in one-upping its neighboring rivals, Sequatchie County High School has claimed bragging rights in facilities.
The school is set to unveil a $1.2 million, nearly 25,000-square-foot multipurpose recreational facility that will be used by Griffith Elementary physical education classes from 7 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and then turned over to the high school for football, baseball, softball, soccer or marching band practice in the afternoons.
"Weather won't be a factor in keeping us off the practice field anymore, that's for sure," Indians football coach Ken Colquette said. "Our old practice field, when it rains it turns into mush, and I've reached the age that I've become cold-natured, but now we can just go indoors and keep on practicing. Plus, with the rule about not being able to practice when it's too hot out, this will take care of all of that.
"It's plenty big enough that we can scatter around into different groups and work on about everything except punting and field goals."
The idea for the multipurpose athletic facility came as a way of answering a desperate need for Griffith Elementary, which with its enrollment of around 950 students is one of the three largest elementary schools in the state and had outgrown the gym, which was built in 1962. Whenever the elementary school had programs scheduled, students were broken up into three or four groups to fit separately into the gym and P.E. classes could be held in a rotation just twice every six days.
"A new gym just for the elementary school would've cost around $3 million," said schools superintendent Johnny Cordell. "We decided since we're a consolidated school system, we'd just build something for everyone, something that could be more utilitarian.
"With the elementary, middle and high schools all on one site, it just made more sense to build something everyone could use, and the school system has already paid for the facility."
The artificial turf field, measuring more than 53 yards wide and 40 yards long, is lined off with more than 40 yards of football field and also has baselines and batting cages for baseball and softball, all covering more than an acre of activity area. There are also coaches' offices and storage area, and there even have been discussions to build a rock-climbing wall at one end.
A covered walkway connects the elementary school to the facility, which is heated. It does not have air conditioning, but there are large garage doors at one end and fans at another, creating a cross breeze when opened.
No other Chattanooga-area school has a multipurpose indoor facility with a turf field that can be used for football practice. It is patterned after one recently built by perennial state football power Trousdale County, located in the midstate.
"The kids are real excited to be able to go in and get to use it, and I'll have to admit, so am I," Colquette said. "I'm glad I stuck around coaching long enough to get to have something like this. Some of the kids were talking about nicknaming it 'The Barn,' but I told them for now I'm just going to call it 'Ken's place.'
"It's going to be good for the elementary school kids and several high school teams, and it's something the whole community can be proud of."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.