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Gentry Stadium work progresses

Renovations at Gentry Stadium, including new bleachers, are expected to be complete by the end of the summer, according to Unicoi County School System officials. (Erwin Record Staff Photos by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

Work continues on several projects for the Unicoi County School System.

Renovations to Gentry Stadium are set to be complete by the end of summer according to Unicoi County Director of Schools John English.

“Gentry Stadium is really taking shape,” English said. “A lot of progress has been made in the last month and everything is on schedule for an end of summer completion. They have the stands up, the new press box and concession stand are built and new LED lights are scheduled to be placed at the field. Preston Construction has done an amazing job.”

Preston Construction was selected to complete the roughly $3.1 million construction at Gentry Stadium following a unanimous vote during an October meeting of the Unicoi County Board of Education. Preston Construction’s bid was for $3,154,100 following a few cuts by the school board.

Some of the items that were cut from the original bid were: landscaping projects around the stadium at a savings of $13,870; a walkway from the field house to the practice field at a savings of $25,000; one retaining wall with a savings of $2,850; a new stove and hood for the concession stand at a savings of $10,300; a partial deduction of $5,200 for roofing pavers for the press box; and a reduction in seat back seats from 300 down to 180 seats at a cost deduction of $1,520. The board also agreed to not alter the football field at a savings of $98,480.

According to English, one of the last items to be completed on the Gentry Stadium project will be the paving of the parking lot.

“There is going to be paving up there, that’s the big one, it’s the last step up there,” English said. “We are still scheduled to be done in around six weeks or so.”

The $3.1 million dollar project is part of several updates being done for the school system. The projects are being paid for by a $5 million capital note that was secured back in April of 2019. During a Unicoi County Budget and Finance Committee meeting that month, Stephens Inc. Senior Vice President of Public Finance Ashley McAnulty laid out a number of scenarios for the capital improvements plan, which included work at Gentry Stadium and the UCHS track. According to McAnulty’s report, the county could spend roughly $5 million without a property tax increase. Repayment would be funded through sales tax and would be paid back in 20 years.

According to English, crews are also pushing through to complete another project at Rock Creek Elementary.

“I know there is work being done on the HVAC system, as well as electrical and plumbing updates to Rock Creek Elementary this week,” English said.

English said he is pleased with all of the projects.

“We are really excited about the progression of these projects as crews have had to fight weather and setbacks due to COVID-19,” English said.