High School's Outdoor Sports Facilities Undergoing $4.9M Makeover

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Copyright 2013 Capital Gazette Communications, Inc.
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The Capital (Annapolis, MD)
September 24, 2013 Tuesday
B; Pg.1
845 words
Facilities give Panthers a boost
Gerry Jackson Sports Editor

Legendary Annapolis High School coach Al Laramore used to like to say "we're reloading, not rebuilding" when asked about his team's prospects for the coming season.

Well this is one rebuilding project the hall of fame lacrosse and football coach would definitely approve of, especially since one of the facilities bears his name.

Thanks in large part to a booster in high places - and you can't get much higher than the State House - Annapolis High School's outdoor athletic facilities are undergoing a $4.9-million transformation.

It's a transformation the school's athletic boosters hope will rekindle some of the glory days when Laramore's Panthers were regular forces in just about every athletic endeavor.

This month, Annapolis High unveiled a refurbished stadium complete with a new $300,000 concession stand, $750,000 field house, sound system and lighting. The overhaul also includes a new separate turf field for soccer, field hockey and lacrosse. When everything is done, there also will be a new softball field, refurbished baseball diamond and new lights for the tennis courts.

The facility should be the athletic jewel of the community once it is complete and will host around-the-clock activity by youth and adult recreation teams as well as high school squads.

"I couldn't ask for a lot more,'' said Annapolis High athletics director David Gehrdes, who has been coaching at the school since 1975 and the AD since 1999. "It has created enthusiasm and made a big difference in scheduling. It will be a beautiful facility once it is complete."

It's quite a transformation for the school, which is also getting an addition that includes new classrooms and a dance studio.

It's also quite the accomplishment for a boosters group that originally was just trying to build a new concession stand to cook a few hot dogs and warm some hot chocolate.

"The idea was to make it the center of the community as well as a modernized high school athletic facility,'' said Michael Busch, who is Maryland's Speaker of the House of Delegates as well as one of the Annapolis athletic boosters who pushed for the upgrades.

"It's been a labor of love,'' said Busch, whose daughter Erin recently completed her Annapolis High career and whose daughter Megan is a three-sport sophomore for the Panthers. "We just had to find a way to make the investment to keep Annapolis' programs competitive and bring the facilities up to the standards of the surrounding schools. Better facilities will create enthusiasm and encourage kids to consider Annapolis both for academics and athletics.''

Busch says the Panthers were already fighting an uphill battle.

He reasons that Annapolis has the county's most underprivileged student body based on free-and-reduced-meal figures. The school sits in the middle of some of the county's wealthiest schools and competition from private schools takes a toll on the number of athletes choosing Annapolis High.

"Parents have choices,'' Busch said. "And if Annapolis' facilities aren't up to snuff, families will choose other schools. Athletics plays a big role in where families choose to send their kids.''

Last school year, Annapolis outdoor varsity teams (not including track and cross country) combined to post a 44-84-2 record. New facilities might not dramatically change those numbers, but they certainly can't hurt.

"It's just exciting to be a part of this,'' said Chip Bullen, president of the Annapolis booster club, whose son Tucker is a member of the football team. "You can see it already in the kids. We just feel so fortunate to have these kind of facilities. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work by previous boosters."

The push for the project came when the school's booster club, led by Sheila Cauffman and Jayne Sherger, raised $75,000 for a new concession stand. The boosters got a matching grant for the project, only to find out they couldn't even get a construction firm to bid on a $150,000 project. That's when Busch decided the Panthers needed a boost from on high.

The new upgrades were paid for (other than the original $75,000 raised by the boosters) by grants from the state. Busch shepherded most of those grants through State House committees and bills.

"(Busch) really was the driving force,'' said Bullen, who played on Annapolis' last state championship football team. "It started with a lot of hard work through the boosters, and he really got us those final 10 yards. We are very fortunate to have what we have for our athletes."

Greg Stewart, senior manager of engineering for county schools, said the age of the facilities at Annapolis High made it a priority. Many of the structures hadn't been upgraded since the 1970s.

"It certainly needed some attention,'' said Stewart, who is overseeing and still putting the finishes touches on the nearly three-year project. "When it is finished, it will be a facility that will be used not only locally but for state-wide competitions."

A dedication of the facilities is planned for Oct. 24 at 5 p.m. when all of the lighting and bleachers are due to be in place at both field complexes.

The new turf field behind Annapolis High School.
The new turf field behind Annapolis High School.
Construction continues at Annapolis High School by the sports fields.
Construction continues at Annapolis High School by the sports fields.
The new turf field behind Annapolis High School.
The new turf field behind Annapolis High School.
September 24, 2013


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