East Ridge High School adjusts to football season without stadium

The Raymond James Stadium and press box will be rebuilt in the same spot as the original location. (Image: WTVC)

Friday night games are a little different for the East Ridge High School football team and its fans this season. Its stadium - declared structurally unsound last fall. In December it was demolished, leaving only the visitor's bleachers.

Now, the team works around the changes, while waiting for the Raymond James Stadium to be rebuilt. The school borrowed a few sets of portable bleachers from Camp Jordan. The rest of the fans from both the home and visiting teams, sit together in the same set of bleachers. The band, and fans - don't have room behind the home team.

"It's kind of weird," said Tim James, East Ridge High School football coach. "We are allowing our opponents to be on the home side. And we're over here - it's a little bit quiet on Friday nights. It's kind of erie over there all by yourself."

Those who don't fit - gather around the fence.

"It's you know, four or five deep some nights," said James.

James says the demolition took away more than a place to sit.

"We lost all of our ancillary facilities underneath," said James. "Our locker rooms, shower, storage, and so on."

Players say - they try not to think about the state of their stadium.

"If you're too focused on your settings, then you won't have the mentality to focus on the game," said Traneil Moore. "And that team that is focused on the game will - nine times out of ten - end up beating you."

But East Ridge - isn't the only school to face challenges.

Sale Creek High School - has never had a stadium.

"Right now we play our home games at Finley Stadium," said Ron Cox, football coach at East Ridge High School.

Cox - says the school has to pay about $800 every home game to bus students - and rent out Finley Stadium. Cox says - it hurts attendance and team morale.

"That stadium is so big whenever they cheer - it's just not as loud," said Cox.

But solutions are in the works. Sale Creek - is in the process of building it's own field just a few miles away from the high school. And East Ridge - won't have to cram into half a stadium - for much longer.

"The Board of Education has appropriated the funds to rebuild the stands at press box here at East Ridge High School," said James.

Those repairs - are expected to be finished by the middle of October. The Board of Education -allocated $300,000 for that project. It's also funding repairs for Tyner and Howard High School's stadiums. Those schools will get $200,000 each. The money will come from the school system's fund balance.

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