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UPDATE: School board takes first step to rebuild Raymond James Stadium

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UPDATE: A couple of phases and a lot of money stand in between a new set of bleachers at Raymond James Stadium at East Ridge High School. 

The Hamilton County School Board discussed what needs to happen in a meeting Thursday. 

Superintendent Rick Smith says the process will cost about $500,000 and need to happen in phases, first surveying, then demolition, then rebuilding. 

Smith says demolition would need to be done over Christmas break when the football season is over and the parking lot is empty. The proposed new set of bleachers will be smaller, made of aluminum and include a press box.

“Those are more modern. The kinds of systems that are going into new construction now so that’s certainly what we’re looking at doing out at East Ridge,” Smith said. 

But footing the bill for the expensive project is the issue. Even though liability falls on the board of education, members say athletics are not part of the funding formula. 

“We’re about educating kids. Sports programs are not required. It’s about educating kids, that’s what the board of education is all about,” District 8 member David Testerman said. 

This may not be the only crumbling stadium in the county. Members approved Thursday $10,000 to hire an engineering firm to survey seven aging stadiums throughout the county, including East Ridge. Smith says discretionary funds will be part of the conversation when deciding a solution. 

“This is a good opportunity for our school board and our county commission to have a good conversation about those one time funds. Discretionary funds are to me, like one time funds,” Smith added. 

Members will discuss the findings in a special called meeting in October. 

Stay with Channel 3 for updates on this story.

PREVIOUS STORY: Four games into the regular season and the East Ridge Pioneers are undefeated. The football team wants to keep that momentum as they take on Red Bank High School on Friday. 

This week, it’s not the match up that’s the talk of the town, but where the game will be played. 

It’s the first time the team has played a game on this field all season. 

“We’ve won four football games. We’ve gotten off a bus every week and we’ve won it. This time we don’t have to get off a bus. We’ll just walk out of our new locker room and go play football. [I told my players] don’t worry about it,” Head Coach Tracy Malone said. 

Malone says the decision to condemn Raymond James Stadium came has a hit to the team and is why he reached out to the city for help. 

East Ridge Parks & Rec Director Stump Martin stepped up by donating four temporary bleachers so spectators could have more seats. 

“We’re all in this together. They’re our kids. They’re our East Ridge kids,” Martin said. 

A local wrecker service donated it’s services to help move the bleachers from Camp Jordan to the high school.

“Honestly, that’s the kind of community this is. There’s a lot of folks right now working to try and make something happen about saving Raymond James Stadium,” he said. 

These seats now give players, students and families to see more wins and memories on home turf. 

“For these seniors, they deserve to get to play here. It means a lot to them. It means a lot to any of them that get to play football so we’re happy we get to play our games here,” Malone added. 

And sets an example of a much bigger lesson. 

“A long time ago, somebody supported me. Somebody taught me about football but also about life lessons. Life lessons that I want to give back to somebody else,” Martin said. 

Those bleachers will stay at East Ridge High School until the post season is over. 

The Pioneers will take on Red Bank Friday night at 7:30. 

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