Track & field, cross-country venue planned

Published 1:33 am Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Covington County Board of Education agreed Tuesday to move forward with a new, centrally-located track and field and cross-country facility, authorizing McKee and Associates to design the facility it hopes to put into use in the 2019 spring season.

Last month, the board purchased 109 acres of land located of Hwy. 55, in what Superintendent Shannon Driver described as centrally located, and within 20 to 22-minutes’ driving distance from each of the county’s high schools.

Architect Walter McKee said the facility will have an entrance off Hwy. 55, with bleachers on one side of the soccer-sized field to accommodate 50 people. An eight-lane track will circle the field with adjacent spaces for high jump, pole vault, long jump and triple jump events. A 5,000 meter cross country course is tentatively designed to begin and end in the stadium.

Between the parking lot and bleachers are a concession stand and restrooms, with additional space where athletes can dress out. There are open pavilions on either end of the public areas.

“This is similar to what we did at T.R. Miller ( in Brewton),” McKee said. “You have a beautiful setting, and this will be as nice a facility as any in the state.”

Board President John Thomasson asked about room for expansion.

“If we ever wanted to add something, say a career tech building, is there room for growth?”

McKee said as he walked the property with Driver and the civil engineer, he couldn’t help but think of how former principal and later superintendent Terry Holley ran programs.

“I’ve been to Florala and seen how he’d train students,” McKee said. “The ag department would take care of the football field. I could envision your students taking care of the track.

“If the school board ever went into career tech or any other centralized program, there’s plenty of room for a building. “

Driver said he got input from the county’s track coaches and principals before the land was purchased.

“What this does is allow our kids to compete and practice on a first rate facility,” he said. “I told the track coaches, ‘we can’t build a track at every school, because we don’t have the land or the resources. I approached them early on and they agreed we can make a common facility work.”

At present, the county system has 160 athletes participating in track and field and cross country events. To date, there have been several students in the county system who won state titles in track and field.

Driver said he envisions students leaving their high school campuses during 7th period athletics to travel to the track facility, practicing for a couple of hours, then returning to campus by bus.

“If some of our civic groups want to hold 5Ks for fundraisers, we’ll have a great place for that, too,” he said.