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New Cole High School Stadium improves game experience for players and fans

By David DeKunder | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Aug. 18, 2017


The stadium at Robert G. Cole High School at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston is undergoing a transformation as a $7.3 million project in renovations and improvements has given the facility much-needed upgrades.

Athletes from both Cole high and middle schools started using the new stadium in early August, when most of the construction was completed on the facility.

The renovated stadium includes new field turf, new lights, new stands, new concession area, new restrooms, new scoreboard and a new press box. In addition, Cole fans who sit in the home stands will no longer be facing the sun, as those stands have been switched from the east to the west side of the stadium.

Plans are to install a new rubberized track, which will replace the original cinder running surface, after the end of the football season in the fall.

The Fort Sam Houston Independent School District board of trustees approved the stadium renovation plans in November 2016 and broke ground on the project in January.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Education Impact Aid Program is covering $5.1 million of the project’s cost, with the remainder – $2.2 million – coming from the school district’s fund balance. Impact Aid funds assists school districts with a high concentration of students whose parents are in the military, or school districts located on tax-exempt federal property, including military installations.

Julie Novak, chief financial officer for the Fort Sam Houston Independent School District, said the project has given the stadium, which was constructed in the 1960s, a total makeover.

The new turf includes ZeoFill, a natural product consisting of volcanic materials. The newer surface is cooler than traditional artificial turf and when watered, the ZeoFill reduces the temperature on the field by 15 to 20 degrees.

In addition, a pad underneath the turf provides softness, which can help prevent concussions. The new turf replaces the grass field that had been in the stadium since its construction in the 1960s.

“Our primary focus in selecting both the ZeoFill and the pad that goes underneath the turf was the safety of our students,” Novak said.

Stadium improvements include aluminum stands. Before the renovations, Novak said some of the stands were made of wood and had to be replaced annually because they showed signs of rotting.

An upgraded press box has more space for coaches, scouts and officials, more outlets and Wi-Fi. The new restrooms were built for more room and easier access and the concession area will also have more space.

The new lights are LED standard, replacing the old lights that had to be run off generators, and the new bigger scoreboard includes a small message screen.

Jackson Construction of Quitman, Texas, and Stantec Architects, from San Antonio, worked on the planning and construction of the project.

John Reyes, Cole head football coach and boys athletic coordinator, said the new stadium has better stands and a more reliable lighting system.

“We had light issues, bleacher issues and people worried about the safety of those types of things,” he said. “Our bleachers are an upgrade, they are aluminum. Last year we actually ran our lights off of a generator. Now I don’t anticipate any light issues. We have a top-of-the-line lighting system.”

Cole athletic director/cross country coach Tina Guerrero said the new rubberized track to be installed in the fall will be a better surface for runners to run on.

“We’ve been running on a cinder track,” Guerrero said. “The cinder has turned into concrete. I would venture to believe we would have less shin splints and knee problems. That’s going to be a significant factor for our kids. We’re just really looking forward to getting on that facility and having our kids perform at the best they can.”

Clifford Jacobs, a senior offensive and defensive lineman on the Cougars football team, said playing in the new stadium will foster a winning attitude.

“I just know we are going to win because we got a new field, we got new stuff and we got all the materials we need to win,” Jacobs said. “It is very well put together. I like this one, it is all metal, clean and new.”

Austin Barr, the Cougars senior quarterback, is looking forward to playing in the new stadium during his last year of high school football.

“They’ve always talked about this field being five to 10 years down the road,” he said. “So it’s kind of special to get it (new stadium) in my senior year. It’s a brand-new facility with all the nice things. It’s just going to be a lot of fun.”

The Cole football team will kick off its season by hosting the first game in the new stadium Sept. 1 against San Antonio Christian.