SP fieldhouse/indoor bid awarded for $3.2M
By Jeremy Weldon
South Panola Schools’ board of trustees on Tuesday awarded Hooker Construction of Thaxton the contract to build what will be the premier multi-use indoor training facility and football fieldhouse in Mississippi when completed in the spring of 2019.
Five companies submitted bids, including Abbey Bridges Construction of Batesville. Hooker won the contract with a bid of $3,241,900.
The school board accepted the bid and signed necessary paperwork to set in motion the process of borrowing the money to pay for the project in a special called meeting.
Head football coach Ricky Woods was invited to the meeting, and the coach, trustees, superintendent Tim Wilder, and other district officials were in high spirits, enjoying a barbeque lunch together before the official votes were taken.
Wood and Wilder began planning the construction of a new fieldhouse and practice facility last year, traveling to Alabama, Georgia, and Texas to look at other facilities.
“I thought about this a long time, and tried to make sure everything was the best for the students and the staff of South Panola School District,” said Woods, who coached the Tigers to straight State Championships (2003-06).
During his first coaching stint here, Woods posted a remarkable 74-1 record, and broke the state’s consecutive win streak during a 60-0 run. In his first year back at South Panola in 2017, the Tigers posted a record of 9-4.
Dale Bailey Association, an architectural firm in Jackson, designed and drew blueprints for the buildings. All city building code variances have been obtained and quotes are being taken now for the demolition of the existing football fieldhouse.
Wilder said the company chosen for the construction has a solid reputation with school districts in North Mississippi and has completed many multi-million dollar projects in recent years.
Wilder said Dr. David Cole gave his endorsement of the Thaxton-based company and said Itawamba Community College has used its services several times.
The fieldhouse alone will be a state-of-the art facility, rivaling the best in the state and Southeast, but it’s the 9,300 square foot indoor training facility that will be the main attraction.
“It’s going to be a showpiece for sure,” Wood said.
The project will really be one large building as the fieldhouse and indoor part will be connected. The indoor facility will the first of its kind in Mississippi although other 6A schools are soon to follow with their own no doubt.
Woods said he has already received phone calls from other coaches inquiring about the rumored facility, but he has been tight-lipped. “They can come look at it when we get it finished,” he said.
In fact, Woods said he hasn’t talked with his team about the project, preferring to wait until all the decisions and plans were finalized before explaining what is about to be built for the athletic programs.
“The kids know a little bit and have heard some things but they don’t know what they’re getting. I’m going to tell them today,” he said.
Woods will take 80 players to West Point Saturday for a full day of football. The Tigers will get their first chance to hit hard against other competition in a spring jamboree.
The team will play eight quarters of football – four each for the A and B teams, Woods said.
The already-legendary coach in Mississippi football annals went over a few details about the facility with the board.
The fieldhouse will have separate dressing rooms for the ninth grade and varsity teams. There will be four film rooms and a meeting room with retractable walls. A large laundry area was designed with chutes and pick-up windows for players to easily handle dirty uniforms.
Coaches have offices in the middle of the facility and large glass windows around the offices will allow staff to see into both dressing rooms and any designated player areas at all times.
One of the most attractive parts of the facility will be the atrium area that will be decorated with South Panola memorabilia and feature images of the five former Tigers who have made careers in the National Football League.
Also part of the fieldhouse are storage areas that will eliminate the need for the small sheds that are now used to keep pads and other equipment.
The indoor training facility was designed to accommodate several sports and activities, Wood said.
He was excited about the area designed for weight training. Moving weight sets from the fieldhouse to the indoor is a real bonus, Wood said. Just past the weight area will be the turf area with lines for football, soccer, and a baseball diamond.
“This was designed for multi-use for all the students at South Panola,” Wood said. “We want everyone that can benefit from something like this to be a part of it.”
The indoor will not be built with central heat and air systems to save money. Instead, large fans will circulate air in the summer and four space heaters in the corners of the building will provide any needed heat.
“The coaches in Texas don’t have air,” Wood said. “They told me the fans will drop the temperature 30 degrees and they said they rarely have to use the space heaters.”
The facility will be padded part of the way up the walls then covered with plywood to the ceilings.
The baseball teams will have drop-down netting for hitting practices and soccer goals will have places and markings also.
Wood said he thinks the marching band could take advantage of the facility, too, especially during the hottest days of band camp in the summer.
The facility will not be open for students to come and go as they want, though. The buildings were designed with student safety in mind and all doors are positioned where staff can observe who is entering and leaving.
Separate boys and girls bathrooms will serve the indoor, and locked doors will prevent anyone not authorized to enter the fieldhouse part away from the football area.
Before the meeting was adjourned, board member Lygunnah Bean said he wanted to publicly thank Wilder and finance manager David Rubenstein for their dedication to the project.
“I really mean this,” he said. “I think this is something that Batesville can be really proud of and we know that the hard work by Mr. Wilder and Mr. Rubenstein is why we have got this far on this.”
Bean said that school boards in the past would have hired outside consultants to plan such projects and present facility reports.
Instead, Bean said, the district had the benefit of Wilder doing much of the legwork and Rubenstein finding the finance options to complete the project in the least expensive manner.
The Panolian will continue to report about the massive project in the coming weeks, including details of how the buildings will be financed, and what taxpayers can expect to spend.