Clarksdale snipped the ribbon at its new football stadium last week as the Wildcats prepare to open on their new field against South Panola tonight, Friday, Sept. 18.
The Wildcats played at Crumpton Field on Lee Drive for several years, but the new stadium is next to CHS. Clarksdale Municipal School District superintendent Dr. Joe Nelson, the five school board members, Wildcats coach and athletic director Henry Johnson, Clarksdale/Coahoma County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Authority Executive Jon Levingston and several athletes were present for the ribbon cutting.
An $8.5 million bond passed in 2017 funded the new stadium and other projects.
“I think having a bond in the community is something that’s big for the entire city and our community,” Nelson said. “It’s something that’s going to be around for a lifetime in our community.
“I appreciate the voters for supporting the bond,” he added. “Without the community and the support of the voters, we couldn’t have as nice a facility as we have here today.”
The stadium was everything Johnson, who has been the Wildcats coach since 2013, expected.
“It’s a nice stadium,” he said. “I helped in the planning process. Really, nothing was a surprise to me. It’s a nice stadium.”
CMSD board President Sandy Stillions said it was good timing to have a new stadium as the Wildcats are off to a 2-0 start.
“I’m pleased with the finished product,” Stillions said. “I’m delighted the project is complete. I’m pleased that we’re providing a stadium and facilities that match the dedication of our fans and what our athletes deserve.”
“It is a privilege to have such a beautiful new field, stadium and training facility for our city high school,” he said. “Sports play an important role in the life of students. Having appropriate, safe and attractive facilities in which these activities take place for our students, their families and school alumni are a source of pride for us all.”
Nelson said he was excited about the community being able to have one of the top facilities in Mississippi.
“The highlight I think for the stadium was a jumbo board,” said Nelson, pointing out fans will be able to see a replay of the previous play.
“Our weight facility is first class, too,” he added. “Our concession area and restrooms are extreme upgrades in a facility.”
Nelson said the visiting and home fans have separate concession stands and restrooms.
“The facility is built for safety,” Nelson said.
Johnson was also happy with many of the stadium’s features.
“We got most of the things (we wanted),” he said. “We have some parking issues and we didn’t get the turf. We’re still very appreciative.”
Stillions was on the board from the beginning of the project approximately three years ago.
“There was so much more involved in the details than the average person imagined,” he said. “A lot of hard work went into the whole process and determining what we could afford to spend based on the bond issue.”
Stillions said the board had to go to several companies trying to make adjustments to fit the budget after receiving price estimates from architects and builders.
Stillions said the process included amending the soil to have the correct foundation and the right type of soil to maintain the field. He said the field had to be excavated four feet deep to fill in three feet worth of soil.
Stillions said the cost of building a field was more than anticipated. It was expected to cost less than making renovations at Crumpton Field would have, but it did not work out that way.
“In hindsight, there wasn’t as much savings if any,” Stillions said.
Stillions said building a new field was worthwhile as it is still on the high school campus.
“We don’t have to bus players,” he said. “Second, it’s going to provide the County the opportunity have their own field.”
Coahoma County High School has been renting Crumpton Field for its home football games.
Stillions said, through a professional, a fair price is being negotiated for the CMSD to sell Crumpton Field to the Coahoma County School District.
While the Wildcats will be hosting games at their new stadium, they will still be practicing at Crumpton Field.
“It just doesn’t look like we’re going to get to practice over there right now because our practice field is still not ready,” Johnson said. “We just put the new sod down and it’s just not ready.”
Nelson said, currently, fans will be able to park in front of the high school and near the gym. In the future, he would like to see fans be able to park closer to the stadium.
Nelson said there will be security on site at every game to deal with parking issues.
The new stadium will allow 25 percent occupancy. That means a total of 500 tickets will be sold – 400 for the home team and 100 for the visiting team.
“I would recommend getting your tickets now,” Nelson said.
Nelson said those who wish to purchase tickets may contact the high school at 662-627-8530.