Liberty County School Board officials hoped to use Liberty County High School’s new football stadium for graduation ceremonies this month. Unfortunately, neither the field nor the stadium is complete. But, board Superintendent Dr. Steve Wilmoth is confident the stadium will be ready for kickoff in September. Meanwhile, graduation ceremonies will be at Olvey Field.
The delay occurred because the architects Buckley and Associates encountered permitting problems with the Liberty County Consolidated Planning Commission regarding soil, drainage fields and water runoff.
Wilmoth said they had preliminary permits, but it took a while to obtain the new permits.
Everything, according to Wilmoth, seems to be fine now and he said they are two weeks away from sprigging the field and sodding the grass. The board also is expected to send the field house and concession stand projects out to bid shortly.
Despite passerbys not being able to see much on the construction site, there has been progress. All of the sewer drains and stormwater drains are installed as well as the drain lines under the field.
Wilmoth said he believes the stadium is good for the school because it gives LCHS an identity.
“There are various opinions on what people think of athletics, but as superintendent I think there are a lot of different things that keep kids in school and for those kids who it will keep in school, I think it’s a magnificent addition,” he said. “I think as a community, it gives some identity to the school. They’ve never felt like they have had a home-field advantage.”
Since LCHS’ inception in 1993, the Panthers have shared Olvey Field with Bradwell Institute. Wilmoth said it was difficult scheduling games for all the varsity and junior varsity games and the new stadium presents the schools with an extra option.
“We may have to move a game from Bradwell to Liberty because of an outage or a problem,” he said. “This way, we have the capacity to seat people at both fields if there is an emergency.”
When the Panthers open their new stadium on Sept. 21, they will step foot in one of the premier stadiums in the area.
LCHS Principal Paula Scott, Athletic director Willie Graham and Football Coach Kirk Warner were instrumental in the design of the stadium.
Graham said they toured several stadiums in the area to come up with a perfect fit for LCHS.
One feature is two press boxes. This way, coaches don’t have to worry about the opposing coaches listening to their play calls. There also will be locker rooms with adequate restroom facilities and a room for referees to change and refresh.
The bands and emergency vehicles will have exclusive entrances through an access trail.
The stadium includes at least 20 handicap spots on both sides of the field for fans to enjoy the game.
The walkways are bigger and one of the key features is it will allow easier control of the crowd.
Upon entering the stadium, fans will purchase tickets and either go to the home side or the visitors’ side. Once on a side, the fan cannot cross over onto the other side. Entrances to the other side will be gated off.
Fans will not be allowed to walk around the stadium or congregate in front of the bleachers.
The restrooms and concession stands will be underneath the bleachers, with access stairs at every walkway. This way, fans don’t have to walk from one end of the bleachers to the other to access the restroom or concession stands.
Another amenity is backed seating. The stadium has 250 seats with backs on them from 40-yard line to 40-yard line.
“That’s a pretty nice addition,” Wilmoth said. “People like me getting a little older, they appreciate something to lean back on instead of having someone’s knee in your back.”
Unfortunately for Wilmoth, he won’t be able to try out the new seats because he is resigning in June.
Wilmoth, however, is excited for the kids who will get to play in the new stadium.
“They’ve worked real hard and have hung in there for several years,” he said. “They worked hard and I just encourage them to work this much harder. They had a taste of winning last year and impressed people.”
The stadium is unnamed and Wilmoth said he wants to leave the naming up to LCHS. However, the board must approve the name.
“That’s not my category,” he said. “I won’t get into that. The principal and athletic director have input on that. They’re the ones who should have impact on it. It’s their school.”
During a board meeting on March 6, LCHS Alumni Association member Charles Frasier requested to name the new field in honor of Donnell Woods. Other names for the stadium, according to Wilmoth, include Liberty Stadium and Panther Stadium.