A long-awaited update to the athletics facilities at Athens Drive High is scheduled to begin construction this spring.
The Wake County school board has awarded a $5 million construction contract for the improvements, which include a new stadium closer to the school.
Families long have complained that the athletic facilities at Athens Drive, which date to the 1970s, need an upgrade. They’ve said the stadium is outdated, unsafe and inaccessible to people with disabilities.
Karin Evanoff, a parent who helped lead the charge for the improvements and a former booster club president, said it’s a relief to see the project move forward.
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“When it’s done I will be so happy for the kids at Athens, for their parents and for their grandparents,” she said.
In addition to the new stadium behind the school, the project includes a paved perimeter access road, a concessions and restroom building, support and storage buildings and parking improvements. The stadium will open during the 2016-17 school year.
The existing stadium, owned by the city of Raleigh and located about a half-mile from the school, also will be updated. Those improvements include upgrades to make the stands more accessible to people with disabilities, and the resurfacing of the track.
The old stadium will primarily handle track and field events.
The project will be paid for with surplus money from the 2006 school construction bond.
Deran Coe, the Wake schools athletics director, said the project is a benefit to all students at Athens Drive High, not just athletes. The new set-up will make for better physical education classes, as well as games, in part because the stadium and practice fields will be so much closer to the school.
“It will be great to be able to walk out your back door,” Coe said.
Over a period of years, families made their case for the improvements to the city, county and school system to bring all three parties on board.
At the school board meeting on Tuesday, board member Susan Evans said she’s glad for the community’s persistence in pushing the project.
“I’m so pleased to see us finally moving forward with this project,” she said. “It’s been a long time in coming for the Athens Drive community, and we appreciate their advocacy on this.”