Home games are returning to Kendrick High School’s baseball and softball programs after a two-year hiatus.
The school officially opened its new athletic complex Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the newly-renovated softball field. Immediately following the ceremony, the Cherokees softball team played its first home game in two years.
“It’s a gorgeous facility,” Kendrick softball coach Amber Sapp said. “We’ve got a lot of state-of-the-art stuff down there. … They’ve really put an investment in here to bring out the opportunity for these kids to play in first-class facilities and show them they’re worth the investment.”
The renovations include face-lifts to Kendrick’s softball, baseball and practice football fields, plus the addition of a wrestling room. The new track around the football field was also installed, as was a new weightlifting facility, according to Kendrick athletic director Collins Jones.
Kendrick principal Alonzo James said the grass surfaces at all three fields were completely torn up, then replaced with new grass. He also said each field received new field lights and scoreboards. Sapp was especially impressed by the softball field’s new scoreboard.
“It’s a big deal (for us),” Jones said.
Many in the Kendrick community share the same sentiment.
Seven individuals made remarks at the ceremony, most from the Muscogee County School District. The Kendrick High Band gave an impassioned rendition of “Mo Bamba” while onlookers (and Hardaway’s entire softball team) clapped along and MCSD superintendent David Lewis threw out a ceremonial first pitch.
Sapp said she and her players were blown away by the facilities. She said while exploring the new softball facility, they discovered the locker room attached to the home dugout. Those dugouts, prior to the renovations, were aged and made of wood.
Sapp also said the softball field used to be nothing but grass. Now it’s got dirt, for a more authentic softball feel.
“The seniors were the last group to play on (the old field) before it got torn up,” Sapp said. “They were just like, ‘coach, you really don’t know. This is amazing to us to see what it was like, and what it’s like now.’”
The money, James said, was provided by the 2015 1% Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) that Columbus voters approved in 2015.
Voters renewed the tax for another five years, or until $192,185,000 is collected for 24 capital projects. Five of those projects are upgrades to athletics fields at Columbus, Hardaway, Jordan, Kendrick and Shaw high schools.
“(The SPLOST) has allowed us to do great things, like this at Kendrick,” MCSD athletic director Jeff Battles said. “It’s a great institution, and it deserves every bit it’s got.”
The Ledger-Enquirer reported in March 2018 that the planned upgrades at Kendrick included a rebuild of the football practice field, lights for the practice football field, baseball and softball fields, and a brand-new baseball and softball field.
“They’ve put this much investment in us,” Sapp said. “This is something that (the players) have never had before.”