Grading work is well underway as part of exterior tasks associated with the construction of Cleveland High School's Raider Area. Inside, new wooden flooring is in place and bleachers are being installed, according to a recent update issued by Cleveland City Schools administration.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — A ribbon-cutting event for Cleveland High School's Raider Arena will be April 5, Cleveland City Schools has announced.

Construction of the new $11 million facility, which replaces the landmark Raider Dome, is expected to be completed by early March. The historic 50-year-old domed gymnasium was closed in December 2013 and demolished during the 2014 summer break.

In a Jan. 19 memo, Cleveland City Schools Director Dr. Martin Ringstaff said the arena's last major benchmark tasks are underway.

Inside, bleachers are being installed and finishing work is nearing completion on electrical and plumbing fixtures, he said. The gymnasium's wooden floors have been installed and sealed, he said.

Raider Arena will have bleacher seating capacity for 2,700 people, with space for up to 500 more by means of temporary seating, school officials said.

On a recent facility tour, Cleveland High School principal Autumn O'Bryan praised the light shades of the arena's wooden playing floor.

"The court will be outlined in Raider blue, but other court marks will be in natural colors," said O'Bryan, describing the intention of having an understated aesthetic for the playing courts.


To that end, indoor signage will be minimal, she said.

Raider Arena will host graduation ceremonies for the senior class of 2016, O'Bryan said.

On the outside, grading and walkways also are approaching completion, Ringstaff said.

He said the facility will undergo a "soft opening" this spring, but will not be fully integrated into class scheduling until this fall.

"It just makes sense at this point in the school year," said O'Bryan, who cited the challenge of relocating wellness classes that have dispersed across the campus since the Raider Dome's closure two years ago.

O'Bryan also expressed excitement over the flexibility and sense of community that the new gymnasium offers.

On the home side, a small student bleacher section will be positioned behind the basketball backboard while a small pep band can play in the mezzanine above, she said.

Mezzanine-level classrooms overlook the playing courts and can be partitioned for intimate learning spaces or opened up for larger assemblies, she said.

After a recent State of the City address given by Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland to the Kiwanis Club, Vice Mayor George Poe praised the financial handling of the project.

It was one of the major achievements for the city in 2015 to build Raider Arena without raising taxes, Poe said.

In response to a Cleveland City Council request that the school system contribute $1 million toward the project, the city school board agreed instead to cap project expenses at $11 million.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at