By Theresa Stratford
Sep 22, 2020 Updated 19 hrs ago
It’s what so many of us have been looking forward to in the fall – the roar of a crowd, the smell of a concession stand, the sound of tackles and whistles, and announcers. It’s football season, and when you think about it, football is more than a sport; it’s a feeling.
Going into pigskin season this year might look a little different. Sure – it got started a little late, and perhaps your team’s schedule is a tad shorter, but it is safe to say that most of us couldn’t be more grateful for these games starting up again.
And for four area high schools, the start of their football seasons just got a little sweeter with an added bonus – a new football field.
But this new football field is not just any new football field. Think state-of-the-art. Think big, and that is what you have in the new Charleston County School District 4 Regional Stadium, located off West Montague and Dorchester Road in North Charleston.
Bob Olson, athletic director for Charleston County School District, says that the plans date back about five years. They started coming up with a stadium’s ideas that could accommodate R.B. Stall High School, North Charleston High School, Military Magnet Academy, and Academic Magnet High School. They knew they needed space, and lots of it, to turn this dream into a reality.
In early 2018, that space was located conveniently near 526. The school district acquired the 38-acre tract for $11.5 million. Charleston County voters passed a referendum in 2014 that stated that a one-cent sales tax hike would be extended through 2022 to fund 35 different school construction and renovation projects. This new stadium was one of those projects.
Matt Campbell, Project Director for Cumming Management Group, who managed the design, permitting, and construction of the stadium, said that once the land was acquired, permitting took just over a year, a timeline primarily driven by a required U.S. Army Corps of Engineer permit.
Construction began in late August 2019, and the first game took place on September 25th with Military Magnet Academy as the home team against Cross High School as the visiting team.
Campbell says the site’s history is varied, ranging from timberland to industrial property to most recently a proposed office park. “The office park developers had started to install infrastructure to support their master plan before CCSD acquired the site, so there was some demolition required, but it was minimal.” he says.
Due to the sheer size and convenient location of the space, it couldn’t be more perfect for these four North Charleston schools.
Out of the four, only North Charleston High School had a stadium on campus. The plan now is to turn that space into a Center for Advanced Studies, which will prepare students for the workforce.
Stall High School used a stadium about 3.5 miles down the road from their current school, which was the old Stall High School location. Academic Magnet and Military Magnet had been using various recreational fields owned by the city of North Charleston.
Even though the four schools will share the stadium, there will be a sense of ownership and a “home” field feeling that inspires pride.
The plans are to use lighting that reflects the home team’s colors on the nights they play, and the state-of-the-art jumbotron will be decked out in their team graphics.
Olson says the schools will rotate their schedules, holding games on various days of the week.
He also says that the field will specifically be used for football in the fall and lacrosse and soccer in the spring, but that they will accommodate other requests as needed – like outdoor graduations.
There are 2,000 visitor seats and 4,000 home seats. Campbell says there are 1,500 parking spots – enough for one in four attendees.
Campbell mentions that some amenities include a back entrance to the locker rooms for both teams, front ticketing, and concession in the main building. Referees will have their own space with a shower and changing area, there will be coach offices for each locker room, and the press box will have four separate rooms.
“The press box will consist of a room for media, another room for the announcers, and then two rooms on either side for the home team staff and the visitor team staff,” Campbell explains.
He notes that the top-of-the-line equipment and technology installed to communicate from the press box to the field will be professional and convenient for the coaching staff.
Daktronics created the jumbotron. This prominent LED display screen will supply the scoreboard and timing devices, videos, and graphics.
Everything at the stadium was built to last, including the surface of the field itself, artificial turf instead of grass.
“The field will cost less to maintain because of artificial turf, and it will also still be suitable to play on after rainstorms,” Campbell adds.
Bobby Smith, athletic director at R.B. Stall High School, says he is most excited for the fans. “This is really important for them. The easy access off 526, the advantage of getting in and out of the parking lot and just being able to enjoy this nice stadium and its facilities.”
He concludes, “And as for the kids, yes, they are going to love it. Walking into that stadium is going to give them so much excitement. It’s first-rate. Everything from the scoreboard to the surface of the field is exceptional. It is something they will take pride in.”