Lamar’s football stadium is currently missing a few key components; namely, a set of bleachers and grass on the field.
Rest assured, Raider fans, both will be back this fall — new and improved.
Following the completion of the school’s new gymnasium back in 2016, Lamar’s focus shifted toward renovating its playing surface and facilities at Grey Cobb Field. Leigh Ann Ballou, head of school at Lamar, said it had been more than 30 years since the bleachers were put in. Initially, the plan was to simply replace the bleachers, but a playoff game last fall opened the eyes of Lamar faculty and board members to the need of further updates.
The Raiders hosted Pillow Academy Nov. 9 in the MAIS Class AAAA, Division II state semifinal round. Lamar won 41-36, but the matchup featured sloppy field conditions due to rainwater that had accumulated leading up to the game. Mud was a big problem throughout the game.
“The fans on the other side were having to walk through mud, so the board and myself came to the conclusion that we needed to look at it as a larger process,” Ballou said.
Eventually, it was decided the field itself would be stripped of grass and given a better irrigation system before being resurfaced with Bermuda grass. After the field was stripped of its grass, several inches of dirt were removed, and a new irrigation system was put in, along with 4 inches of gravel and 8 inches of sand. A berm was also created near the north end zone that will serve as a tailgating spot and a place where Raider fans can watch the game.
The Bermuda grass will be added in two weeks, and the field and bleachers are expected to be ready when the Raiders play their first home game Aug. 30 against Presbyterian Christian School. Once the work is complete, the field will be watered every day until that game.
“It will be a top-notch playing field,” Ballou said. “If it rains an hour before the game, it shouldn’t affect the game a bit. It drains well.”
The school considered going with a turf field, but Bermuda grass was less expensive, and turf has to be replaced every seven to 10 years, Ballou explained. Head football coach Mac Barnes said he’s looking forward to having a better playing surface this fall, and he backed the decision to go with Bermuda grass instead of turf.
“The companies that do the turf itself, they pointed out to us, if it was the absolute best field, all of the SEC teams would have a turf field,” Barnes said. “Financially, it’s much better to do a grass field.”
Whether it’s a resurfaced field with a better irrigation system or fresh new bleachers on both the home and visitors sides, Ballou said the renovations should be a positive for players or the fans.
“Having quality facilities are so important for the safety of our athletes,” Ballou said. “It was a worn-down field that caused several issues with the mud. Secondly, we really enjoy having families come out here and support us, and we want it to be a nice, inviting atmosphere. Having facilities that can be easily accessed whether you’re walking or using a wheelchair, we want everyone to have that good experience.”
The school’s boys soccer teams and middle school football team also use the field, and local youth football teams play on it as well. Barnes said many people serve to benefit from the school having better football facilities, and it will also mean better safety for the athletes.
“I don’t know what the (average) life for a stadium is, but after 50 years, they’re not as safe,” Barnes said. “Getting a nice facility, it will be something every one of them will love, and parents and fans will love it, too.”
The renovations couldn’t happen without the support of the Lamar faithful, and Ballou said alumni have raised 40 percent of the money needed for the work. The plan is to have it all paid for by the end of the summer.
“It means so much for our families and community to be interested in what we’re doing and asking how they can support us,” Ballou said. “It’s very important that they’ve stepped up.”
On July 18, the school will host a burgers and boosters event in its cafeteria, where the new bleachers’ 92 chairback seats will be up for sale. Attendees can also purchase one of the 20 tailgating spots on the new berm next to the north end zone. All of the money will go toward the renovations, Ballou said.
For more information, contact Ballou at 601-482-1345.