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Gentry Stadium rebuild underway in Erwin

Sue Guinn Legg • Jan 19, 2020 at 6:48 PM

ERWIN — The demolition work is complete and excavation is well under way for Unicoi County schools’ $3.1 million rebuild of the Blue Devils’ Gentry Stadium.

Under contract to Preston Construction, the project began in December with demolition of the 86-year-old stadium’s badly deteriorated concrete bleachers.

On Friday, the project appeared to be on track with rows of concrete block stacked in the parking area and several pieces of heavy equipment on site and poised for the months of construction ahead.

When completed, the stadium will feature new seating for 2,720 people, including 180 fixed-back seats at mid-field from which special ticket pricing will add new revenue to the school system’s football programs. Handrails and vertical aisles through the bleachers are also planned to improve fans’ access and safety.

Additional features will include a new press box with a rooftop viewing area, new LED lighting, new perimeter fencing, a new paved circle around the field, improvements to the stadium’s upper access road, new laundry facilities for the field house and an updated concession stand.

The target completion is before August’s start of the football season.

Funding for the stadium and several other capital projects planned by the school system will come from the $333,000 annual debt service the school system is currently paying on the capital outlay note that built the county high school, which is set to be paid off in June 2021.

A $5.1 million capital outlay note for the stadium and other school projects was authorized by the County Commission last fall.

Director of Schools John English has emphasized the new stadium and will not require any new tax dollars.

Next on the school system’s capital project list are a new lighting and sound system for the high school auditorium and a new electrical and HVAC system for Rock Creek Elementary School.

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