Above, pictured from left, Director of Schools John English, head football coach Drew Rice, Sheriff Mike Hensley and Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department Administrative Assistant Craig Masters stand in front of the newly-remodeled Gentry Stadium. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

Unicoi County football fans will see a new and improved Gentry Stadium when they visit the field for the Blue Devils’ home opener on Friday, Aug. 25.

“We are very, very thankful,” head coach Drew Rice said. “They have done great work.”

The “they” Rice referred to are the inmates of the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department (UCSD) work program.

“Sheriff Mike Hensley and Director of Schools John English teamed up for this project,” UCSD Administrative Assistant Craig Masters said. “We are doing this for the school system and the whole county. I am thankful we have leaders who will let us do things like this. The inmates enjoy it and are able to use their skills. They are also able to learn new skills they can use when they are released from custody. This work helps them in the future.”

Work done by the inmates at the stadium included cleaning and painting.

“This saves the school system a lot of money,” Hensley said.

The UCHS football program is happy with the work.

“They have been a huge help. This a big place up here,” Rice said. “There is a lot to maintain. All these metal roofs needed painting and they came in and painted them for us. The gate is the big thing people will notice. They repainted all of it. We have a new sign coming in the middle there. Those guys have done an awesome job. Our community can really take pride in this place.”

The Unicoi County School System is also pleased.

“We are very appreciative of the commitment they made and the work they have done to beautify Gentry Stadium,” English said. “For the fans who come here on Friday nights and the kids who play here, Gentry Stadium is a special place. All the work they have put in makes it even more beautiful and makes it even more welcoming to fans on Friday night or those who come to any other event at Gentry Stadium. A lot of our community will come here for different reasons throughout the year. We appreciate Sheriff Hensley, Craig and all the work of the inmates.”