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"Raider Arena" has been slow this winter due to wet weather and freezing temperatures.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Despite numerous days lost to inclement weather, construction of Raider Arena, Cleveland High School's new gymnasium, is making good progress, says city school board member Charlie Cogdill.

In a recent presentation to the Cleveland City Council, Cogdill praised the efforts of Tri-Con Construction, the project contractor.

"Tri-Con has persevered in spite of the weather and made progress that is commendable," said Cogdill. "We now have had over 20 weather days, which contractually moves the completion date back to early February 2016."

Although Tri-Con has moved the finish date to early February, the contractor will still try to finish the new gymnasium in January, said Cogdill.

Special care has been taken to ensure concrete work is done correctly, even in cold weather, said Hal Taylor, director of maintenance and transportation for Cleveland Schools, who serves as a liaison on the construction project.

In some cases, additives are mixed with the cement to maintain the proper curing rate, he said. At other times, warm blankets are placed on top of poured concrete walls to keep the heat within.

Temperature of cement mixing is also controlled by heating the sand, said Taylor.

Footings for the new facility are 95 percent complete and foundation walls are 80 percent complete, said Cogdill.

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Progress of the gymnasium's construction, which began in November, is visible by even casual observation from Raider Drive.

In January, a foundational wall facing the road was easily twice the height of a man. Now that same wall stretches up a number of stories, with an open doorway offering a glimpse at the sky.

"We've come along, but the weather is hurting us a little bit," said Cogdill.

Rain is expected to put a damper on construction this week, he said.

The facility will replace the high school's 50-year-old landmark Raider Dome, which was demolished last summer. The dome was closed in December 2013 after receiving an unfavorable structural analysis.

The entire project, which includes construction of Raider Arena and demolition of Raider Dome, has been capped at $11 million. The city school board made that decision in response to a request made by the Cleveland City Council that the school system contribute $1 million to the capital efforts.

In January, the Cleveland City Board of Education approved the name "Raider Arena" for the new gymnasium after considering a recommendation made by Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools.

He submitted the name after speaking at length with school administrators because it kept the high school's mascot in "the forefront," said Ringstaff in a Dec. 19 memo to the school board.

"We believe that calling the facility 'Raider Arena' will give it the desired respect that this wonderful building deserves," said Ringstaff.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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