Multi-Sport Complex Taking Shape
A massive athletic facility is taking shape on the north end of Parker Street, built by Lee University and involving both city and county governments.
The seven-acre site includes a NCAA-certified oval for track and field, with an artificial turf field large enough for soccer, football, and lacrosse inside the eight-lane track. There will also be small buildings for concession stands, public bathrooms, locker rooms for athletes, and storage facilities. A small grandstand will be built into the west side of the oval, and a separate grass field for discus, shot put, hammer, and javelin. A paved parking lot and lighting will complete the complex.
The project has been underway since last fall, according to Lee president Dr. Paul Conn, and is scheduled to be complete and ready for athletes during the fall semester. The facility will also be used by the Lee University intramural sports program, with an all-weather surface to be shared by men's and women's rugby.
The track itself is a poured-in-place specialty item which will be installed after the infield turf is complete.
"This is a wonderful partnership with the Bradley County School Board," Conn said. "We have partnered with them for 25 years on the baseball facility across Parker Street, and it has been a classic win-win situation. We expect this will work to the benefit of all the young people in Cleveland and Bradley County. It adds a first-class track-and-field facility that we have never had in this region before."
Conn also praised the Cleveland city government for its help with the project. "This is a wonderful example of public-private cooperation," he said. "A private university, along a city streetscape, with county schools, all working together." Conn cited the cooperation of City Manager Joe Fivas and members of his staff, in the planning of the streetscape. He gave special thanks to Bradley County School Board chairman Troy Weathers and director of schools Dr. Linda Cash, for their early commitment and support to the overall project.
Cole Strong, vice president for operations at Lee, is serving as liaison to the project, which is being built by Tri-Con Inc., who also built the baseball stadium. Strong said the artificial turf is the same surface which is installed at Mercedes Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons, and Gillette Stadium for the New England Patriots. It is being installed by Mammoth Sports Construction, a national company which builds fields for numerous NFL and NCAA teams around the country and has had a crew in Cleveland working on the Lee site since early July.
Strong said property for the sprawling area was put together with a combination of a gift from the Fillauer family, additional purchased real estate, acquired to supplement the county school property serving as the core of the site.
The facility will be home to Lee's highly successful track-and-field program, coached by local star athlete Caleb Morgan. Morgan was a prep runner at Walker Valley High School before going to Lee, where he set numerous records as a distance runner which still stand. He coaches both track-and-field and cross-country teams at Lee, and he has led both teams to conference championships in the highly competitive Gulf South Conference. He has been voted Coach of the Year numerous times by his collegiate peers.
"This facility will be a true game-changer for track-and-field in this region," Coach Morgan said. "We have waited a long time for a place to call our own, and we really appreciate the cooperation we have had over the years from both the county and city school system. Seeing this venue take shape is a dream come true."
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