Group seeks to renovate athletic field

PHILIPPI – A group has mobilized to move forward with the Philip Barbour High School athletic complex renovations initially proposed in a failed 2012 school bond.

The project is an estimated $5 million undertaking, but members of Friends of George Byrer Field, a group of about 25 people, said Tuesday they are confident they can make it happen.

Member Mike Cvechko told the Barbour County Board of Education Tuesday there is a need for upgrades to the athletic complex because of safety concerns at the current facility, which has seen 51 years of wear and tear.

“This complex has been very good to Barbour County over the years; I want to stress that,” Cvechko said, “but 51 years later, we feel that we have a new vision and a new dream. George Byrer Field has hosted countless events over the years… unfortunately, all of these events, along with Mother Nature, have taken their toll on the grass surface and created situations in which the field has presented safety concerns to the coaches, parents and student athletes.”

Cvechko said the conditions have led to twisted and sprained ankles, strains, tears, knee sprains and, in some cases, even broken bones. He also said the conditions of the field have prevented sports teams from hosting home football games and bringing in revenue through admissions and concessions. Cvechko said the band’s ability to host field competitions have been limited because of the complex’s condition.

The group will be seeking funds from corporations throughout the nation, alumnus of ABU, grants, organizations known to support sports and other contributors who wish to donate. Friends of George Byrer Field is composed of entrepreneurs, contractors, college and high school level coaches, teachers and businessmen and women in Barbour and surrounding counties who are trying to raise funds for the project.

“The people that are involved in this is what has me excited about the successful opportunity that we have to make this realization,” Brian Bibey, a co-chairperson of the group, said.

The phases of the proposed project include placing turf on the football field and upgrading the lighting and track.

The group is not proposing raising all the funds at once. Rather, they will work in phases to make the changes, using the original engineering phases and estimates set by Thrasher Engineering, a company hired to design and render the proposal for the BOE’s bond.

The original plan for the athletic complex included turf for the football field, an eight-lane rubberized running track, new visitor bleachers, improved lighting, a new soccer practice field and some road paving.

For the baseball field, the original plan included improved fencing, a press box and dugouts. The plan also included the construction of six tennis courts and a 2,000-square foot practice putting green for the golf team.

There were also plans to build a new field house to include home and visiting team locker rooms, public restrooms, a concession stand, a weight room, a storage area and an officials’ locker room.

“It’s going to be phenomenal for our kids of all ages, for youth groups, everything,” PBHS Principal Mark Lamb said, later adding, “The possibilities are endless with what we could do with a facility like this.

“I want PBHS to be the envy of every high school in the region… It would be such a sense of community pride to be able to see that not just in a virtual tour, but with our own eyes. I’m passionate about it. The people we have working with us are very passionate about it. This is going to happen. It will happen. We’re determined.”

The group proposes that the eight-lane track become a nine-lane track that would be unique in the state and could be utilized as an attraction for regional events, said Jesse Weiner, Alderson Broaddus University Women’s Track head coach.

“The level of our educational and athletic facilities are one of the key things that bring businesses and professionals to communities like ours,” Cvechko said. “We hope that you will agree to join our efforts to take extracurricular activity at Philip Barbour High School to a level never seen before in its history.”

Board members voted unanimously to act as a fiscal agent for those funds through a special banking account maintained by the BOE and used only for the project. Superintendent Dr. Joe Super said that at least two signatures each from the school board and from the Friends of George Byrer Field should be signed on each receipt so that each party will know how much is deposited.

The Friends of George Byrer Field group is open to help from anyone who wishes to get involved. The group announced at Tuesday’s Barbour County Commission meeting they will be hosting a meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at Philip Barbour High School.

“We all know the importance,” Commission President Tim McDaniel said. “As a former coach, I know that overuse of the field is terrible… I think it’s something that will be worthwhile.”