The first meeting of the Brickyard Committee last Wednesday afternoon brought in many ideas and left everybody dreaming big. The committee was formed to discuss plans for renovations to the 65-year-old home of Thomson High's Bulldogs. Funds for the renovations would come from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax IV.
Approximately 12 people, including coaches, school board members, "old Dogs" and business members attended the meeting. The informal structure allowed people to throw out their ideas and tell why the ideas were important.
"We certainly got a lot of ideas," said School Superintendent Mark Petersen. "And that was the purpose of the meeting was to get ideas and plan the next move."
After a PowerPoint presentation showing many photos of all areas of the Brickyard from different angles, including from the air, the questions and ideas flew.
The first question was one that will affect the entire project: how much money do we have to spend? Dr. Petersen said he is not able to quote an exact figure until SPLOST IV is passed through an election on Sept. 19, and all projects under the sales tax plan are addressed. Other education projects to be covered by SPLOST IV include a new Norris Elementary building, a new junior high school, new technology equipment for the schools and renovating existing school facilities.
"Our first priority is the schools," he said.
While the amount of money was an indefinite point, the fact that the Brickyard facilities are inadequate and outdated was not debated.
One common idea was elevating the home bleachers, allowing room for restrooms, concessions and locker rooms underneath.
"The area under the stands right now is just air, wasted space," Dr. Petersen said during the meeting.
This idea also encompassed the problem of the dilapidated, old field house, which "needs to go," according to Coach Luther Welsh.
Elevation of the visitor stands was also discussed as a solution to space for visitor restrooms, concessions, and team dressing rooms. It was acknowledged during the meeting that most other football stadiums keep the visitors separated from the home team fans.
Another option for the stands was increased seating and planning for future growth. While the current stadium has adequate seating to host state play-off games, discussion was held on the future possibility of Thomson moving up in classification, meaning more required seating.
Dr. Petersen said he wants to plan for the future of the Bulldogs, and he wants to make sure the renovations are done properly.
"I don't want to half do it," the superintendent said. "Everything I've done in the last two years is patch. I'm tired of patching."
Another area of focus was the condition of the field. Coach Welsh said the field was started, then work ceased when the money ran out, leaving half of the field without sand for drainage, two different types and colors of turf and an unleveled surface. Assistant Coach Mark Daniel also offered his opinions, which are based on past experiences at other fields.
Other ideas included the entrance, the scoreboard, new lights, concrete stands, moving the field over a few feet, expanding the property and a hall of fame.
"If you can do all that, then I'll say you did a pretty good job," Coach Welsh said with a laugh.
As the ideas grew, Dr. Petersen asked for input from the old Dogs.
"As long as you stay inside the bricks, that's all the tradition you need to worry about, speaking as an old Dog," said Kenneth Usry, who is a Thomson City Councilman.
Some members of the committee will travel to Glenn Hills High School and Vidalia High School to tour and take photos of their football stadiums. The committee will meet again on Aug. 9. No final plans will be made until after the approval of SPLOST IV in September. Dr. Petersen said he hopes the renovations will be completed by the fall of 2008.