Jocquette Carroll’s 15-year-old dream of a new track and field facility for Dothan may yield even more dividends for athletics in the Circle City.
The Dothan City Commission discussed the creation of a new track facility Friday, and the idea could impact 56-year-old Rip Hewes Stadium. While commissioners heard plans for the track at various locations, two of them involved deconstructing all or sections of the venerable stadium.
That idea, though it could cost as much as $14 million, seemed to gain the most traction in discussions.
“It’s obvious Rip Hewes Stadium needs to be renovated, and that’s gonna cost millions,” said Dothan City Manager Kevin Cowper. “In terms of community impact, it makes the most sense to combine the projects. I think long-term for maintenance it will save money.”
If the project gains approval, it will address two long- and oft-discussed ideas in Dothan’s athletic circles.
Carroll, the former Northview High School track and field coach, approached the city about the need for a track and field facility about 15 years ago. While some studies and discussions have occurred throughout the years, Carroll said, the idea did not gain traction until about a few years ago.
“They first set a plan about four or five years ago to put it out at Northview while I was still coaching there,” he said. “That plan was so expensive, and they (didn’t) do it for a while. Then Bob Woodall and some of the other coaches got together and said we need to get this track thing on the road. It was like my dream that was fading started to come to life.”
Meanwhile Rip Hewes Stadium aged, and the size of the programs that used the facility quickly outgrew the locker rooms there. Mayor Mark Saliba mentioned Dothan’s growth to a 7A football program next year will only exacerbate the problem.
The commission has deemed a new track facility as a top priority in the past two years and hired a consultant to evaluate the construction of a large track and field facility at various locations. Cowper said the cost estimates are “very, very preliminary,” but some of the notable facts and figures discussed Friday are the following:
>> Walton Park: The city owns about 24 acres of land that is currently unused at the location, which is not far from the new Dothan High School campus on Highway 431. The facility would seat about 2,800 and contain 663 spaces at a base cost of $6.9 million.
>> Doug Tew Recreation Complex: The cheapest option at a base cost of $4.8 million, this plan utilizes the paved track area behind Dothan Preparatory Academy as the foundation of the program. The facility would require the demolition of the largest baseball field at Doug Tew and relies on the usage of current locker room facilities at a fieldhouse. The facility would seat 1,920.
>> Northcutt Field: This project would involve raising the home grandstands higher plus the creation of a visitors grandstands and new locker rooms and concessions areas. The facility would seat 3,648, and additional parking would require the relocation of some of the Westgate Park walking and biking trails. Limited parking, especially when multiple events occur at Westgate Park, seemed to be officials’ biggest concern with this project. The projected base cost would be $6.1 million.
>> Rip Hewes No. 1: This plan calls for the demolition of the visitors stand and removal of Pitman Field (for parking purposes). New aluminum seating would replace the demolished seating, and new locker rooms and concessions stands would be constructed on both sides. The base cost is $11.5 million, though some additions like a videoboard could raise it to $12.4 million. Seating for this plan would be 9,511.
>> Rip Hewes No. 2: This plan requires the demolition of both sides of Rip Hewes Stadium, the removal of a tennis court and the removal of Pitman Field (for parking purposes). With the addition of parking, new locker rooms and new concessions stands, the projected base cost is $13.1 million. Using synthetic turf and installing a video board ups the cost to $14 million. Seating in this iteration tops 10,000.
The presentation noted just the installation of new adequate locker rooms and concessions stands to Rip Hewes Stadium would cost Dothan about $7.9 million. Additionally, the construction of the track at Rip Hewes Stadium would result in the loss of a football field for one season, City of Dothan General Services Director Randy Morris noted.
The commission will have further discussions regarding the plan, which will include Dothan City Schools officials since the plan could impact Dothan High’s various athletics programs. Carroll, though, noted his excitement in seeing some plans for a track facility actually reach paper.
“It’s like a dream come true,” he said.