Hurricanes fans who use a wheelchair will no longer have to worry about field access this baseball season.
By the time East Hamilton Middle/High School's varsity baseball team plays its first home game next month, the campus will have improved sidewalk access from the parking lot to the baseball and softball stands for spectators with disabilities.
"This is an effort to make the school's facilities more accessible for all in the community," said Tim Hensley, spokesperson for Hamilton County Schools. "It doesn't matter if it's one person or 500; everyone needs access."
The construction comes courtesy of the county school board and the Hamilton County Commission, which contributed $41,575 to the project in December.
Commissioner Sabrena Smedley, who represents the area, said the move was part of ongoing efforts to ensure facilities throughout the county comply with standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The work will result in multiple sloped points along the sidewalks to provide ramp access, Hensley explained.
The payoff won't just be for those in wheelchairs. The project will also bring "cleaner" access to the fields for all spectators, said Justin Witt, director of facilities and maintenance for the school district.
Principal Gail Chuy said the work will be a big win for the loyal fans with disabilities who come out to cheer on East Hamilton Middle/High on a regular basis.
"This work will greatly improve their access to the fields to support the Hurricanes," she said.
Witt said the work will begin within the next two to three weeks. Construction is expected to last approximately three weeks.
The project is the latest piece in the puzzle for completing the school's athletic complex. Plans for the middle/high school, built in 2009, did not include athletic fields, concession areas or restroom facilities when county commissioners approved the funds for the school's construction.
Commissioners have since passed a resolution requiring the plans for future schools to come complete with needed external facilities before they can receive funding, to avoid such issues on the front end, Smedley noted.
Other recent enhancements to EHS' sports facilities include a 174-car paved parking lot completed by the Hamilton County Department of Public Works to replace the gravel lot by the school's baseball and soccer fields. Smedley said officials are still working to determine a funding source for the two restroom facilities planned for those two fields. Recent estimates have placed a single restroom facility at $120,000, said Witt.
"All I can tell you from my standpoint is I'm going to keep pushing," Smedley said concerning the continued upgrades. "It's just important to me that it gets done."
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