As work begins on the start of a new high school football season, the preparation won’t be limited to the product on the field.
Construction is entering the home stretch for a new district stadium at Keenan High and two others (Memorial Stadium and Lower Richland High) going through renovations in Richland 1 school district. Bolden Stadium won’t be used this year, though work is underway.
The plan was to have District Stadium at Keenan done in time for the Sportsarama scrimmages Aug. 11, but that likely won’t happen, according to Raymond Perkins, Richland 1 director of facilities services.
Perkins said other options are being discussed to host the five-game Sportsarama, including Benedict College.
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“It is never exact science when it comes to these kind of projects,” Perkins said. “It is always a lot of moving parts, especially with the amount of rain we had. We want to make sure we get it right.”
Perkins hopes Lower Richland’s stadium renovations will be ready for its home opener against Carolina Forest on Aug. 24, with both Memorial Stadium and the District Stadium at Keenan to be ready the following week. There are games scheduled Aug. 30 and 31 at both Keenan and Memorial Stadium.
An exact schedule and locations for the Richland 1 home games Aug. 16-17 are still to be determined. CAJ game against Great Falls is being moved at Great Falls on Aug. 16 or 17. Eau Claire is scheduled to face Lewisville on Aug. 16 and that game will likely be moved to Lewisville on Aug. 16 or 17.
Keenan is scheduled to host Columbia on Aug. 17. No decision on a site for that game has been made yet.
Turf is scheduled to be installed at Memorial Stadium as soon as this week, Perkins said. The turf is in at Keenan, and a final portion of the track around the field was being put in place Tuesday.
The stadium upgrades are part of nearly $40 million in athletics projects that have rolled out across the school district since 2015. After construction, all the district’s stadiums — Memorial, Keenan, Bolden and Lower Richland — will have similar features, including 5,000-seat capacity, artificial turf, video scoreboards and updated restrooms, press boxes and fencing.
“I’ve coached in Richland 1 since the 1990s and have watched growth in programs and facilities,” Richland 1 Athletic Director Bob Matz said. “There has been a major investment into athletic programs in the schools, and the school board has been very supportive of growing our athletic programs.”
The District Stadium at Keenan will be the home field for Keenan and Eau Claire.
Memorial Stadium, home to Dreher and A.C. Flora’s sports teams, is getting much-needed upgrades to the nearly 60-year old facility. The changes, which total $6.7 million, include new bleachers, press box, concession stands, restrooms and artificial turf, which will be in place at all of the district’s stadiums.
Lower Richland, which had new turf and a scoreboard put in last year, is getting the second phase of the project with new seats, restrooms and a paved parking area on the home side.
Another challenge was scheduling of games without the availability of Bolden Stadium, which will host C.A. Johnson and Columbia home games starting next year. Those two schools will play their games at Keenan or Memorial Stadium.
“We tried to make it as fair as we could to everyone,” Matz said. “It hasn’t been a problem, because we have worked with three stadiums in the past. We’ve just got to make sure everyone is on the same page.
“I think we are going to be OK. I feel we are prepared for every situation.”