Whether it was needed for building projects or individual acceptance of the new order, time has been everyone’s best friend since the county’s future as home to two high schools and rival athletic programs came into focus about three years ago.
This week, as evidenced by the echo of hammer hitting nails, the roar of heavy machinery, and even the bark of frazzled canines at an adjacent kennel, that old friend’s days are numbered.
Twenty-three days remain until the official dawn of the inaugural fall sports season at Great Crossing High School. Nine weeks will pass in the twinkling of an eye before the kickoff of the first-ever “Battle of the Birds” at the new football stadium Great Crossing and Scott County will share.
To the layman, that doesn’t look or sound like much time. Bleachers are ready, but gravel and unfinished brick walls otherwise dominate the football complex. Earth-moving implements sit where cars are to be parked. Mud is all around the next-door soccer facility.
The message from school officials: Have no fear, and mark your calendars.
“There are many skeptics. Even I was like, ‘There is no way this is going to happen in time. There are no bleachers.’ Then I looked up the next day and they were done,” district athletic director Daniel-Taylor Wells said during a News-Graphic tour of the facility this week. “Our construction meetings have ramped up to the point we’re meeting twice a week. The hope is we’ll have the fields turned over to us for fall sport activities July 15.”
Great Crossing’s sprawling new complex, accessible from Stamping Ground and Frankfort Roads, will be home to the Warhawks’ soccer, track and field, baseball and softball programs.
Both district football teams and cooperative lacrosse teams will play at the main stadium, with seating for nearly 4,000 spectators and substantial standing room.
“Probably the biggest event we’ll have out here, ever, will be the first,” Wells said. “The first game we’re expecting quite possibly the largest crowd ever for a sporting event in Scott County.”
Despite the hubbub going on within earshot, the football facility appears close to completion.
Steel seating overlooks both sidelines. Roomy stadium chairs in a neutral, beige color have been snapped into place for each school’s season ticket holders.
A smooth layer of gravel rests in the center ring, waiting to be married with artificial turf that is due to arrive Monday.
D.W. Wilburn, Inc., of Lexington is in charge of the build.
“It takes three weeks to put (the turf) in,” Wells said. “Unless it’s lightning and torrential rain, the guys can work out here.”
The exterior of the field house, immediately beyond the end zone farthest from U.S. Route 460, appears almost complete.
Locker rooms — guests, Scott County and Great Crossing, from left to right — face the field.
What’s behind them will be a bonanza for GCHS athletes. The layout includes a 35-yard turf field, a golf simulator and a weight room.
“It will be multi-purpose. Archery teams will use it for practice. Even on the 35-yard turf field, the batting cage will come down from the ceiling at the push of a button for baseball and softball,” Wells said. “It’s going to be first-class, the whole operation.”
The football and soccer stadiums — the latter with one-sided seating for 1,600 spectators — are constructed back-to-back. In the lower concourse between those metal towers are concession stands specific to each high school, plus rest rooms.
Press boxes and elevators await completion. Wells said that is dependent upon the schedule of the state’s sole inspector of such projects.
Light poles are going in place, as well. Those fixtures, furnished by Musco, promise new panache for the traditional Friday night lights.
“They can flash and go on and off and move to the music,” Wells said. “They’ll have under light where they can be lit up different colors. Then if a touchdown is scored they can go on and off, all over the stadium.”
What else is missing, aside from the turf and some final touches of concrete?
Although it might not seem as urgent to the athletes on day one, a corporate sponsor has been deemed essential. Bids will open July 1.
“If you think about what we’re doing, where this is located, the name is not going to be ‘Great Crossing Field.’ It’s not going to be ‘Community Field.’ We need a community sponsor to step in and name the stadium and field after them,” Wells said. “All this other stuff is not shared. Only the football field is shared. Georgetown College has Toyota Stadium. We need a name.”
Equipment storage remains an issue while the field house and locker rooms are completed.
“We’re currently in the process of getting stuff ordered, but it’s difficult to order when you don’t know where to tell them to ship it. I mean, where are you going to put helmets and shoulder pads right now?” Wells said. “It’s a game of playing chess, where we’re going to put the stuff and where the kids are going to be. All the coaches have been very accommodating, because they understand what we’re dealing with, and we’re going to make it work.”
Great Crossing’s track will surround its soccer field. That was done, Wells said, to satisfy fans who believe the added distance between the field and bleachers at a football stadium makes the game hard to follow.
Soccer’s turf looks about 80 percent complete. Wells said that portion was held up while end-of-the-year activities wrapped up at Elkhorn Crossing School, because it required shutting off water and sewer lines.
The softball and baseball fields, situated side-by-side between the main stadium and the new school, also are making visible progress. Those are less urgent matters at this time, although grass does need to be planted before winter.
Parking will be plentiful on all sides of the complex, with overflow spaces available in the high school lots.
“That’s no different than what people have been walking for a game at Georgetown College,” said Wells, who added that online ticketing will be utilized to reduce the last-second crush at the box office on football game nights.
In addition to those who have questioned whether or not the fields will be ready, there are those in the community reluctant to accept the new reality of a county without one, united team as its rallying point.
Wells believes that will subside in relatively short order when fans see the product on the fields and courts.
“There are great coaches and a lot of great kids. I think we’re going to see the fruitfulness of our community even better now,” he said. “That’s something else that’s beneficial is a lot of the coaches on both sides are stepping up their game to provide what’s best for the kids. You’re not the only show in town anymore.”
Wells said that attention to detail has trickled down to the middle school level, where each school now has its own specific feeder system.
Royal Spring Middle School students will attend Scott County, with Georgetown Middle School funneling into Great Crossing. Scott County Middle is split evenly between the two.
“Now you have more focus on kids at that level, which is helping those programs as well,” Wells said.
Open enrollment gave SCHS students — particularly those who were already entrenched with their sports teams — the option to attend either school.
Even with that grandfathering clause, officials expect the pool of roughly 2,700 students to be divided almost evenly when the doors open Wednesday, Aug. 21.
The first football game, with Great Crossing officially playing “host,” is two nights later.
“Many will be surprised that a lot of the kids are going where they’re districted to,” Wells said. “In the end more kids are going to get opportunities, and parents can send their kid where they want them to be educated right now. I think the community has appreciated it.”
The division of one athletic program into two is mostly uncharted territory, although schools in Shelby and Hardin counties did the same not long ago.
Fayette County’s addition of Frederick Douglass High School in 2017 was similar enough that Scott County’s brain trust tapped into some of the neighbors’ blueprints, as well.
Perhaps the hardest part of “construction” is growing the rivalry with so many moving pieces.
“At some juncture there will be people wearing both Scott County and Great Crossing (apparel),” Wells said. “It will work out in the end. Ultimately it’s about kids.”
Wells said the perception is starting to fade that athletics were the largest hold-up to the construction of a new school.
“I’ve not spoken with one coach that didn’t support a second high school,” he said. “They want what’s best to increase the participation in their sport and to give opportunity to kids, and nobody can argue with that. That’s what’s best is to give kids all the opportunities we can.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.