By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
Football is expanding and upgrading in the western end of Etowah County.
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs recently awarded the City of Altoona $250,000 to assist in constructing a new football stadium.
The city selected an 11-acre field between Highway 132 and Brown Street, near County Highway 41 as the site of the new stadium. The site is a former residential area, which was leveled by an F-4 tornado in November 2000 and never rebuilt.
“We started lobbying for the money for a new field about three years ago,” Altoona mayor Ricky Nash said. “We got the grant just over a year ago from ADECA and we [the city] added $125,000 to the stadium fund.”
Nash said the stadium will be built for the youth football league at West End Elementary School, which plays its games at West End High School.
“This field is for the little boys to play on,” Nash added. “They need their own field to field to play on. We plan on building a practice field near the stadium also. We have plenty of fields for the other youth sports, such as softball and baseball, so we feel we need one for football, too.”
Nash said the entire 11 acres will be developed for the stadium and parking. The mayor said the new stadium will be used for other youth and city events.
“We may hold a few events up there, such as MayDay, just to get out of downtown.”
Nash said the new stadium will be built strictly for the youth, but could be used by the Patriots’ varsity team if need be. The stadium will be a financial boost for the youth leagues. The city plans to foot the bill on all costs of using the field.
“The kids will not have to pay any rent to use the field nor will they have to pay for lights,” Nash said. “The city will pay for the use of the lights. Also, any money they raise, whether it be at the gates for tickets or in the concession stands, will go to the youth league. They won’t have to split the money with anybody, they will keep 100 percent of their profits. They have a hard time financially and this will be good for them to keep their league going.”
Nash said the city has wasted no time in getting started with the development of the stadium.
“We have had guys working up there six days a week moving dirt and leveling the surface for the major construction to begin. If everything goes as scheduled, we should have the field completed and ready for the 2013 football season.”
The city is now taking bids for the construction and grading.
“We’ve got most of the topsoil brought in already. We had to stop working because ADECA wanted us to take bids and contract the work out. Hopefully we will have everything contracted out by the end of the month and we can get back to work on [the stadium].”
Nash said the stadium will be fenced in completely, as well as the field itself.
“The grant did not include lighting, but we’ve already got those bought from a city in Florida,” said Nash. “By the time we need them we should have enough money to transport them here.”
Nash said the stadium will benefit all the communities that feed West End Elementary School and West End High School.
“The folks in Walnut Grove have been great in helping bring this stadium to Altoona. Autry Works [Walnut Grove mayor] signed to help get the grant. This is a community effort and a community field.”
Nash praised recent legislation for the city’s ability to contribute so much money toward the stadium.
“Representatives Craig Ford and Blaine Galliher worked hard to get us the money for this. The one-cent sales tax board has really helped us out with this and we never would have gotten the grant without them.”
Football has been a stranger to Altoona for many years.
The last football game played in Altoona was a match Altoona High School and Hayden High School on November 12, 1965. The Choctaws won the game 38-13, in what was unknowingly at the time, the last football game to ever be played by Altoona. The Choctaws posted a 9-0-1 record that season.
Altoona High School merged with Walnut Grove High School prior to the 1966-67 school year to form West End High School.
“We will decorate the stadium in red, white and blue to represent West End and both communities,” Nash said. “We are trying to help the youth in our community all we can, but we don’t have much money to work with. It’s gonna be a great and wonderful thing and we are all excited to see this stadium in our town.”