Cleveland High School's new $11M gym on schedule to open in Febr - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Cleveland High School's new $11M gym on schedule to open in February

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Students at Cleveland High School went back to class over a week ago, but that's not slowing down construction on the new $11 million Raider Arena.

School officials expect the new 80,000-square-foot gymnasium to be ready to open in late February.

"There's a lot of work left to do to open this place in six months, but we're excited," said Dr. Martin Ringstaff, Director of Schools.

The new gym is replacing the Raider Dome, which was torn down last year due to structure concerns. 

The former gym was built in the 1960s. Since then, Ringstaff said enrollment has more than doubled.

"We needed to build a facility that could at least hold the faculty, staff and student body. The dome could not do that," he explained.

The Raider Dome had a capacity of seating just 1,500 people. 

The Cleveland City Council agreed to set aside $11 million to build the new gym, which will seat 2,700 people but can expand to 3,300 seats for special events like graduation. $1.2 million went to tearing down the old facility and paying for architect plans.

The rest of the budget goes towards new construction.

"We understand that $9.8 million is a lot of money. But we do believe we're building a facility that the City of Cleveland will be proud of for years to come. It's just not a basketball gym. This is going to be a multi-use, educational facility and a community center," said Ringstaff.

Some of the facility's amenities include six new classrooms, an indoor track, a special sound system to host concerts, and an arena scoreboard to hang over the new 94-foot floor (which rivals most college-size gym floors).

"To get a locker room, to have a coach's office, somewhere where we can watch film. To be able to have somewhere we can truly call home is very exciting," said Raider Basketball Coach Jason McCowan.

This is the basketball team's second season without a home court.

"If we go play a home game, we take our jersey with us. It's really a road game," McCowan said.

The team has been hosting their home games at the Cleveland Middle School, while shuffling practices at different gyms across the district.

"Everybody knows we've been out of our facility, so that's been a good teasing point for other people to say, 'Well, at least we have a home gym'," said McCowan.

School officials say they're on track to open the new gym by February 28th.

"This will outlast all of us," said Ringstaff. "For generations to come, this will be their gymnasium."

While it's unclear if the gym will be open in time to host a late-season basketball game, this year's May graduation ceremony is scheduled to be held inside the new facility.

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