Athens Drive stadium upgrade included in Wake school bond plan

Posted May 17, 2013

— The issues with the football field at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh are well-documented, but some are balking at the idea that part of a Wake County school construction bond would go to finance an update.

School board members have said they will ask voters to approve about $800 million in bonds to build 16 schools and renovate six across the county. Part of the money raised would go towards improvements at Athens Drive's Williams Stadium. 

Wake County Commissioner Paul Coble has heard some of the questions.

Athens Drive stadium Stadium included in Wake school bond

"When the school system has told everybody they need a bond because they need more seats, they need more capacity, someone is going to ask, "If you need more capacity, why are you renovating a stadium,'" he said.

For the hundreds of parents, students and fans of Jaguar sports, an upgrade to facilities more than 35 years old is a necessity, even a safety issue.

The emergency access road that leads to the stadium is unpaved, pointed out Athletics Director Alvin Thompson. "It's not even big enough for two cars. Imagine a big ambulance trying to get through," he said.

Others point to dangerously dim lights, gravel parking lots and a sunken stadium that is not accessible.

"There’s really nowhere to go if there’s a thunderstorm or major crisis in the middle of the game," Thompson said.

Moreover, he said, learning takes place on the field. "It’s just an extension of the classroom," said Eric Pulling, who coaches football and teaches physical education at Athens Drive. "Lessons are taught out here – to the football players, the soccer players and to everyone who uses it."

"I’m a teacher first," Thompson added. "A lot of our kids who participate, graduate. They don’t drop out."

The upgrade to the stadium is estimated to cost almost $5 million. Coble says that money could pay for an additional 200 classroom seats.

"It’s all about setting priorities, and you have to be prepared to justify your decisions," he said. "Which is more important, a new stadium or new seats? They’ve been telling us its new seats.

"We’re going to be very judicious in how we spend that money and look at everything carefully," Coble concluded.


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  • markjb33 May 20, 2013

    No, NO, No on any Bond

  • wral_viewer May 20, 2013

    Stadiums aren't just used by a few HS student/athletes. It's used by bands, it seats parents and the extended community for football, soccer, lacrosse (if Athens has lacrosse), and likely other events that benefit the entire community (some HS's host "First in Fitness" events that are for he middle/elem school level, charity walks, etc).

    It would be nice to know what the Parent Booster club has spent on the school community/athletics over this 30 years, I'm sure it's a LARGE sum. My kids don't go to Athens, but our booster org spends lots of money to support the infrastructure and facilities.

    I've been to's a lovely stadium setting, but it deserves to be accessible and safe for all.

  • Civil4Mind May 20, 2013

    $5 Million is a bit much for a Stadium. To me it sounds like the school is trying to get turf and top of the line equipment. With the economy the way it is I say NO. Granted if it was only $250,000k to make it handicap friendly and provide better lighting then okay. But $5million your asking for a bit much.

  • tabdjb May 20, 2013

    "Just another example of why ADA is bad law"

    So why don't you try and push a wheelchair through the dirt, rocks and mud just to get to the sidewalk. Once you get in the concrete stops at the track. To get to the seats you have to go through rocks and grass. Trust my I know because I did it with my daughter for 8 years and neither of my kids went to Athens. We were there for various sporting events. I am an alumnus of Athens and I was sad to see that the field had not changed in 30 years.

  • 3TeensGrowinUp2Fast May 20, 2013

    PS - FVHS's stadium is in much worse condition than ADHS, but you don't see IT on the bond.

  • 3TeensGrowinUp2Fast May 20, 2013

    With 3 kids in high school right now (at a very run-down school!), I say NO to this spending. No one is in the position to afford any of these costs right now. NO. Having said that, my husband nearly broke his neck when he sat in one of the theater seats (broken back) this week. There are definitely some repairs that need to be made, for the sake of safety, so if anything at ADHS's stadium is UNSAFE, then fix it, but you don't need to spend that money to replace it. We taxpayers can't afford it. NO.

  • bombayrunner May 20, 2013

    NO !! ... throwing money away on the Tata debacle did it for me. They throw away $250,000 ... then ask for more?? everyone should vote NO.

  • ezLikeSundayMorning May 20, 2013

    While I support the role of sports in high schools, $5mil seems like a lot to spend on a stadium upgrade. I'm not going to let it stand in the way of a much needed school bond, though. If they take it out of the bond, they'll just work it through the budget if it's really needed. Maybe that would be better. Pave the access one year, replace the lights another. Rework a section of bleachers to allow wheel chairs in another year.

  • vst1908 May 20, 2013

    As a parent of an ADHS student I wish some of you would come and see why this bond is needed before you so casually dismiss it as unnecessary. During the fall 2012 football season a visiting player was injured and lay on the field unable to move. Our stadium is not located adjacent to the school and we do not have a field house. An athletic trainer had to jump into a golf cart and drive to the front of the school to meet an ambulance and lead it, down an unpaved path, through the woods, to get to our stadium. Imagine, for just one minute, what you would have been thinking if that had been your child. You would wonder why your county did not do more to upgrade the facilities at all the schools. I would say I was disappointed in Mr. Coble's remarks but I guess he had his silver spoon in his mouth at the time.

  • whatelseisnew May 17, 2013

    "The stadium is not handicap accessible and this should be one of the main arguments for an upgrade."

    Just another example of why ADA is bad law.