The hard work being done Thursday at Columbus East High School wasn’t just taking place on the football field.
While the Olympians were concentrating on a summer practice session under head coach Bob Gaddis, construction workers were busy building new bleachers, as well as restroom, concession stand and locker room facilities.
The coaches will have to speak a little louder as the steady groan of machinery is a constant during the $2.2 million project. Much of the project needs to be complete before East’s home opener on Aug. 22 against Bloomington North. The Olympians won’t use their new, 5,000-square-foot locker room facilities until November.
No one connected with East’s football program is going to complain about noise or dust, or even delays for that matter.
“Obviously to our kids, this means a whole lot,” Gaddis said after the practice session. “It lets them know that the community cares about the facilities our athletes use to compete here.
“For us, this was both a safety need and a necessity. Our players appreciate it.”
East will get new bleachers on the school-side of the football field that will become the home sideline. A team room/locker facility is being added just off one end zone. New restroom facilities are being constructed on the new “home” side of the field, and the existing restroom facilities on the other side will be renovated.
The new structures will surround a beautiful turf field constructed in 2006. It all combines with what Gaddis calls a “great” weight room facility.
If you live in Columbus and have never toured the Columbus East or Columbus North high school facilities, you should.
After all, you have helped pay for them. Like East, the North football facilities are fantastic. If you are a resident here, I’m sure you would be welcomed to take a look if you contacted either school or the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation.
We live in a community that embraces the thought that a quality educational experience pays off in the long run. North football coach Tim Bless talked about the pride at both North and East when it comes to its players earning college scholarships for their football players. The list is impressive.
Bless, whose program benefited from new bleachers and press box a year ago, and Gaddis both shared a common term when they talked about the way the community and the school corporation deals with the football programs.
“First and foremost, I think the No. 1 issue with building our new (bleachers and press box) was safety,” Bless said. “Our stadium was built in the early 1950s.
“But when you look at how it directly helps our football team, the sight lines from the new structure are so much higher, and that helps our coaches during the games. It also helps with the video footage that we take during games and every day during practice. It might not seem like it, but it makes a big difference.
“Of course then there is the intangible — pride.”
It would be fair to say this community takes great pride in its high school athletic programs. These projects, such as the one taking place at Columbus East, would not be possible if the community balked when it came to spending the money.
In any community where I’ve lived, school upgrades have always met with passionate opposition. I’ve never lived anywhere like Columbus, with its “students first” approach.
Certainly, some segments of the community are against such projects. However, by and large, projects get done.
Both Bless and Gaddis realize they are blessed in that regard, and they talk to their players about it. “We talk a lot about having appreciation for all this,” Gaddis said.
Indeed they do. I have heard those discussions myself.
Columbus isn’t alone in its support of the high school athletic programs. At times, it can seem like an arms race.
“We’re comparable to all the (class) 4A and 5A facilities across the state of Indiana,” Gaddis said.
So Columbus, take a bow. It’s because of you.
Jay Heater is the Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.