After the sports’ seasons ended in the fall, construction began to craft a new softball field and concession stand, as well as new facilities around the football field.
The project, funded by a 2011 special purpose local option sales tax, is expected to be completed in early August, a few weeks before the softball and football seasons begin.
Cherokee football coach Josh Shaw said his program had lagged behind the county’s other five high schools in terms of facilities, and this is simply bringing the school — the county’s oldest — up to date.
“I know, when I got hired, the SPLOST had been passed,” he said. “That definitely played into my being eager to come here. Cherokee has been way behind everyone else facility-wise and they are just getting caught up. They have been in dire need of something new. Obviously, we want something good for our kids and to be on equal footing as everyone else, so we are excited about the changes.”
The improvements around the football field include a new field house, which will contain the Warriors’ locker room, coaches’ offices and an equipment room.
The old field house at the north end zone of Tommy Baker Field, parts of which dated to the early 1970s, has already been torn down. It held just two offices for coaches, and limited showers and lockers for players and equipment storage.
Shaw said the new place is a definite upgrade, if only because it will have the air condition the old one lacked.
“During the summer months, particularly the early portion of the game season, not having AC in there was always an issue,” Shaw said. “Now, it will be a home field house with a public restroom on one end of it. The rest of it will be our football facility.”
A visitors’ locker room is also being built beyond the south end zone, near the wrestling building. That structure will also house a concession stand and restroom.
The biggest project at the stadium, however, might be the relocation of the entire playing field.
“They are cutting out the bottom portion of the stadium and moving the field over about 15 yards and then redoing the entire things with laser-grade irrigation, and then re-sodding it,” Shaw said. “The point of it is to give the visitor sideline more space.”
The playing surface will remain natural grass.
In the event that the renovations to Tommy Baker Field isn’t ready by the mid-August deadline, Cherokee will be playing its preseason scrimmage and season opener on the road. The Warriors won’t host a game until the beginning of September.
The differences can already be seen with Cherokee’s new softball field, being constructed adjacent to the baseball field and track. Land is currently being cleared for the field, and work has begun on a concession stand that will also service the baseball field.
The Lady Warriors bid farewell to their old field at Boling Park, which sat just off the banks of the Etowah River and often flooded at the end of last season.
At the end of the season, softball coach Tonya Carlisle said it would feel strange to coach the team on a new field, but the change was needed, if only to keep Cherokee competitive. Last season alone, a half-dozen games needed to be relocated after the field was deemed unplayable following heavy rain.