New Hawthorne Heights press box is under construction
The new press box is currently under construction at Hawthorne Heights. Its predecessor, two construction trailers erected and conjoined in 1992, was deemed unsafe and unsatisfactory. The project cost $237,900, plus $3,000 due to unsuitable soil for the foundation. The Edmontson Foundation, A.P. Green Foundation and the Bulldog Booster Club donated $100,000 cumulatively for the new press box.
The box is made up of two stories, measuring 46 feet long and 8 feet wide each. The first floor will be used by the coaches of both teams and the top will be used by the filming crews, scouts and media representatives. The softball field, football field and track will be visible from the box. A catwalk is being added to the sides for crews to film from and scouts to achieve an optimal vantage point.
"I was the guy who used to film," said district Custodial, Maintenance and Operations Director Mitch Ridgway. "I was climbing up the ladder and filming from the roof. It wasn't a safe environment. Now we have the ability to put them inside. It's much bigger than the old press box so when we have softball and football games at the same time, both groups can work at once."
Though worker comfort is an advantage to the new press box over the old, Ridgway said the first priority is always safety. "Our thought process was to do it right the first time and we think we have. When we do something we try to do it right and there's a cost that's involved that can be intimidating for people. But, I bet 95 percent of the time you are better off building it right the first time. If somebody fell, we would be liable and the cost of taking care of that person could be much worse. This press box was built to be safe and to last and we hope it will for 30-40 years."
The old press box had several safety concerns. First among them was severe mold damage, causing structural instability.
"I was stunned as to what wasn't there that should have been because the mold had eaten up the rim joints," Ridgway said. "In two or three more years we would have been up there with nothing holding it together. The intruding water had eaten it up. I didn't know it was this bad, until we got in there. We were going to originally remodel the building, but now I'm glad we didn't.
"The other issue is that it didn't make code. These things are put there by the city to keep people safe, and we didn't have those in place. This new system corrects those issues. Access points getting in and out was another problem. Also, the structure itself wasn't made to take wind shear. If we hadn't done something, when the wind hit it, the old press box could have come apart. We are lucky it didn't fall down."
Demolition of the previous press box began in late December and construction of the current box began approximately a month ago. Construction was scheduled to begin shortly after football season, but was delayed by inclement weather conditions. The first use is scheduled to take place April 26, for the Ron Whittaker Relay, but Ridgway said, "This is a long-term project and we want to wait and make sure we do it right. We had to address the project needs and plan appropriately and that's why it has taken this long."
Ridgway said, though the project wasn't necessarily academic in nature, it is important for the district to construct something the students, staff and Mexico citizens can be proud of that will last. He is very appreciative of the groups who contributed to the project.