No one is playing sports at Jones County High School now due to the shutdown for the coronavirus pandemic.
And with the governor ordering that schools remain closed at least through April 24, it remains uncertain if the spring sports seasons will resume at all this year, or if there will be spring football practice in May.
But high school sports will return at some time, and Jones County athletes and fans will welcome some upgrades to facilities at the school next school year.
Earlier this year, the Jones County Board of Education approved spending $3,051,536 to complete 12 projects at the high school – 10 of them directly related to athletic facilities.
The most expensive item will be replacing the dirt sod of the football/soccer field at Greyhound Stadium with an artificial turf field – an $850,845 project.
New visitor bleachers will also be added at the stadium, and the open shed at the far end of the stadium will be enclosed to provide a visitor locker room and concession stand.
The asphalt track at the other end of the campus will be repaved and restrooms added, and the parking lot next to it will be paved. New restrooms will be built at the baseball/ softball complex and the existing concession stand will be renovated. And the tennis courts will be resurfaced.
Parrish Construction Group, which was the contractor for recent expansion at the high school, was awarded the contract to do the work.
The money for the athletic projects, $2,898,457, is coming from the bond account from funds left over from the school expansion projects.
Jones County school superintendent Charles Gibson said the projects remain on schedule as of now despite the coronavirus shutdown.
“Most of the construction is planned for the summer after school is scheduled to be finished,” he said. “The engineering and planning has progressed as scheduled. We may run into some delays obtaining materials or equipment, but hopefully nothing major.”
Excavation work at the stadium is scheduled to begin in late April, which is after the now suspended soccer season was supposed to be finished. Dirt and sod will have to be removed to make room for the drainage system and bed that the artificial turf will be placed upon. The spring football game, if it is played as scheduled on May 11, will be at West Laurens High in Dublin.
School officials decided on the Field Turf Vertex Prime field due to the high use of the stadium’s field. In the fall, it is used for middle school, ninth grade, junior varsity and varsity games. In the spring, the field is used for soccer.
Also, the trend in the state has been to shift to artificial turf for stadiums, and last season the GHSA reported that for the first time more than half of the state’s schools would be playing their home football games on artificial turf fields.
The new visitor bleachers at the stadium will cost $359,101. One section of the existing visitor bleachers will be moved to the end of the field near the concession stand and old visitor locker room. The others will be removed.
A new concrete pad will be poured and new metal bleachers installed. They will be 16 rows high and 297 feet long, providing 2,104 seats.
The visitor seating had to be expanded to meet GHSA requirements to host playoff games, Jones County athletic director Barry Veal said. The school had to rent temporary bleachers this past season to host the state quarterfinal game.
A new 1,000-foot 4-inch PVC water line will be put in behind the new visitor bleachers to replace the old line. The cost for it is $32,000.
Enclosing the metal-framed and roofed livestock show arena shed at the far end of the football stadium to convert it into a visitor locker room and adding a 20-by-20-foot masonry concession stand building next to it is budgeted for $389,993.
Repaving the track will cost $356,250. It will remain six lanes. There had been talk of expanding it to eight lanes so the school could host region-sized meets, but due to its location near the road the area would have had to be completely regraded to make room for that.
The six lanes will be finished for competition, however, so JCHS could host regular season two-school meets, Veal said. The high jump area will also be repaved, and new long jump and pole vault lanes will be paved in the field area inside the track.
The restrooms at the track, to be built in the end of the Cheer Factory building, will be available for use for community events such as youth track and Relay for Life. The cost for them is $38,050.
Paving the parking lot at the far end of the track will cost $68,288.
The amount budgeted for the baseball/softball restrooms is $186,440. They will be in a 20-by-30-foot masonry building.
The cost for repairing cracks and resurfacing the six tennis courts is $54,200.
Two other projects approved – $69,890 to replace restroom partitions in the high school and $83,189 to update the lighting in the performing arts building – will be paid for with 2014 SPLOST funds.