High School Football

One of Columbia’s oldest football stadiums is about to celebrate its extreme makeover

New-look Bolden Stadium debuts for 2019 season

Bolden Stadium in Columbia was renovated ahead of this football season. Here is the new look for 2019.
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Bolden Stadium in Columbia was renovated ahead of this football season. Here is the new look for 2019.

On a hot afternoon in early August, construction workers continued to chip away at the renovations to Charles F. Bolden Stadium.

The new coconut-infilled turf and seats are installed. It’s just a matter of weeks before the work is done and one of Columbia’s oldest stadiums can host high school football games for the first time since 2017.

Bolden Stadium, built in 1956, was originally named W.A. Perry Stadium. It was later renamed after former C.A. Johnson state championship coach Charles F. Bolden Sr.. Bolden Stadium will be the permanent home to the C.A. Johnson Hornets and Columbia Capitals. The two schools played their home games last year at either Memorial Stadium or Keenan District Stadium while work was done to Bolden.

“Our district has spared no expense,” Columbia coach Jason Bush said. “Our district has shown the commitment that we have the facilities to make us look good, play well and be successful. We know we are excited.”

Richland One Director of Facility Services Raymond Perkins said renovations to Bolden Stadium are ahead of where things were this time a year ago at Memorial Stadium. Games weren’t played at Memorial until the end of September. As of now, the earliest there would be a game at Bolden is Sept. 6 when Columbia hosts A.C. Flora. The first game most likely will be Sept. 13 when C.A. Johnson faces Keenan.

Bolden will have some of the same features as the other renovated stadiums across Richland School District One. Capacity will be about 5,000 seats. There will be a six-lane track, two new concession stands, new restrooms and ticket booths.

Unique to Bolden: Fans will have an elevated look from the end zone as they enter the stadium before walking down steps to get to their seats.

“This is one of the nicer ones we have done. You got a really nice picture of a hometown football stadium,” Richland One Athletic Director Bob Matz said. “It dresses up everything and showcases the district and our athletics and what we done facility wise. Raymond has done a great job with the facilities and the superintendent to help push things through. We have had a favorable school board to get this going from the get-go.”

Richland One has spent nearly $40 million in athletics projects since 2015. In addition to the work done at Bolden and Memorial stadiums, a new district stadium was built at Keenan High School and renovations were done to Lower Richland’s football stadium.

Turf fields for football practice, soccer and lacrosse were installed at Columbia, Eau Claire and A.C. Flora high schools. Matz said the final project — tennis courts and turf fields for boys and girls soccer, varsity football practice and junior varsity football games at Dreher High School — should be done by the end of December in time for spring sports.

“It is more of a relief than anything on the construction side. As fields are completed, there are some good feelings and excitement about that and a place where they can call home,” Perkins said.

Improvements to school and sports facilities are happening in districts across the Midlands:

Fairfield County School District just spent $3.2 million on renovations to Fairfield Central’s E.K. McLendon Stadium.

In November, voters approved a $468 million bond for Richland Two schools. Part of that will include Ridge View and Richland Northeast high schools getting on-campus football stadiums, and turf will be installed in venues at Blythewood and Westwood high schools. Each school in the district will get improved field houses.

As for Richland One, Matz said the next project he would like to see done is improving the schools’ weight rooms, among other things.

“The district has really put an emphasis on giving our schools the facilities and the ability to build our programs,” Matz said.

Columbia native Charles F. Bolden, Jr. is often asked about the football stadium that bares his name. He loves correcting them so he can talk about his dad who was a football coach at C.A. Johnson High School.

Lou Bezjak is the High School Sports Prep Coordinator for The State and Island Packet. He has covered high school sports in South Carolina for 16 years and is a two-time South Carolina Sports Writer of the Year by the National Sports Media Association.
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