By Garth Shanklin
The footprint of Williamsburg Middle/High School will look drastically different next spring.
A groundbreaking ceremony will be held on August 7 for the new grandstands to be installed at Abrams Stadium.
The new structure will do more than provide seating for fans, according to Williamsburg superintendent Matt Earley. In addition, the building will host a four-window concession stand, restrooms, coaches offices, two 1,200 square-foot locker rooms, training facilities, and a 1,200 square-foot weight room.
The project will add roughly 1,000 seats to Abrams Stadium, 175 of which are stadium-style, similar to the home seats at New Richmond High School. The project will also add a 450 square-foot press box.
Williamsburg Board of Education Vice President Jeff Cummings, who serves on the school’s building and grounds committee, said the he didn’t expect a facility quite like the one the school will open in the spring.
“When this process started, we never knew it would come to this nice of a facility,” Cummings said. “It’s almost done, and we’re super excited.”
The project will be funded completely by a donation from the Abrams family, who made an initial donation in 2012 to kickstart the construction of the current facility.
“In 2012, the Abrams family came forward and wanted to donate money for a track,” Earley said. “They had had relatives run track and Williamsburg had no track. We would go to area schools to run, we would go to East Fork. We were always away. Their initial donation in 2012 allowed us to build a track.”
Earley added that construction of the track was the first major construction project on the campus since the high school itself was built in 1997. It didn’t take long for the second project to begin.
“The Abrams family was so thrilled and saw the school getting use out of the track that they continued to donate money towards adding things to the track, so we were able to buy a 1200-seat bleacher set from Bellefountaine High School,” Earley said. “We built a track storage building, and then the third phase was lighting the track. They continued to give money, so we got a scoreboard, and flags and also the lighting system to make it a lit track.”
The lights at the track can be turned on with the push of a button, allowing community members to use the track even when school employees aren’t around to turn them on.
Getting board of education approval on the contracts was not difficult, according to Cummings. He added the main goal was to keep the Abrams family involved every step of the way.
“It’s been relatively easy to approve the contracts and bids,” Cummings said. “The most important thing is that we communicate with the Abrams family and show them a clear vision of what they want to see. Their dream was a track and field. We have always centered our ideology and everything that we’ re doing around how it can service the athlete. From building the track to putting the fence around it, to the lights with the timer, to now finally building the bleacher system that is going to revolve around track and field, it’s been relatively easy. The most important aspect is being clear to the Abrams family and making sure they really liked it.”
The facility currently has bleachers on the away side only, and lacks concession stands and restrooms.
A movable trailer serves as the concession stands during home soccer games, while fans have to walk to the high school to use the restrooms.
Osborne Field, the home of the Williamsburg football team, does have on-site restrooms and concessions as well as some coaching offices.
It is not yet known if the football team will move their home games to the stadium after construction is complete.
“We moved soccer over there a few years ago, and what the future holds for other sports moving, there’s still discussion being had about that,” Earley said.
The school hopes to have the facility completed in time to host a home track meet in the spring. According to Cummings, the construction will not force the schools’ soccer teams to a different field, nor will it affect the baseball or softball fields. Williamsburg is scheduled to host Goshen in a boys’ soccer scrimmage on August 7, the same night as the groundbreaking ceremony. Earley said the only real “loss” will be roughly 10 parking spots in front of the school.
In addition to the obvious on-field boost the new facility will provide, Cummings said he hopes current students can take a lesson away from the news as well.
“When somebody gives to you, you need to pay it forward,” Cummings said. “When the Abrams family gives to us so nicely the way that they have, we need to give it back to the community so all families of all kinds can use it along with students and staff.”
The groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Monday, August 7 at 4 p.m. at the entrance to the track at Williamsburg High School.