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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

OAK RIDGE - An ambitious plan to seek community support for a major overhaul of Jack Armstrong Stadium and Blankenship Field kicks off next month with a fundraising concert, attendees at an Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce event Tuesday were told.

The stadium in historic Jackson Square - home of the Oak Ridge High School football team - used to be "the premiere place to play" football in East Tennessee years ago, Oak Ridge High head coach Joe Gaddis said. But the last major renovation - which was relatively minor in scope - was done in the 1970s, he said.

Now, Gaddis said, stadium facilities have been surpassed by many other high schools in East Tennessee.

Any improvements to the local facilities "are several years away and several million dollars away," he said.

Long-range plans include opening the facility to a variety of public events such as concerts, said Rick Chinn, a member of the grassroots committee proposing the project.

Chinn said any improvements to the football field and stadium would be done in phases with a new ticket booth and entranceway topping the list of priorities.

If all of the wish list items were built, it's an estimated $9 million project, Gaddis said after Tuesday's get-together. Those amenities include refurbished home stands, new press box, an addition of skyboxes for major benefactors, a Jumbotron and artificial turf.

"Our goal is to bring it up to the standards of what our competitors have," Chinn said.

Some work, by the school system and the city, is already underway.

New bleachers to replace visitors' grandstands - deemed in unsafe condition in a recent inspection - are being installed and are targeted to be ready for the home opener Aug. 29 against Farragut.

The city is improving the public parking lot and handicapped access next to the stadium.

"Now we need to get a buy-in from the community," Chinn said.

Gaddis said a concert with a tribute to the group "The Temptations" will be held Aug. 9 in the high school auditorium. Proceeds from that event, presented by the Oak Ridge Quarterback Club, will launch the stadium fundraiser. That inaugural event, Gaddis said, "is critical to our efforts."

July 2, 2014
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