A recent grant from The Alleghany Foundation is earmarked for engineering studies at two Covington athletic facilities that will be utilized extensively when the two local school systems merge in the near future.
The Alleghany Foundation has approved a $134,314 allocation to the city of Covington for engineering studies at Casey Field and the Jackson River Sport Complex. These two facilities have been chosen to host specific team sporting events when students begin attending the merged Alleghany High School in the 2023-24 school year. The Covington City and Alleghany County school systems will merge administratively on July 1, 2022. It is anticipated that the fields would be used once the schools themselves merge for the 2023-24 academic year.
“The purpose of this grant is to provide funding for an engineering facility study of these two facilities to upgrade and comply with Title IX requirements,” said Mary Fant Donnan, executive director of The Alleghany Foundation. “It is important to address the needs of these facilities for student/athlete and general public use. The goal will be to use this study to assess the needs, then move forward with architectural design and construction.”
The grant includes funds for renovation, stormwater design and topographic/utility survey and subsidence of soils description and on-site observations at Casey Field. It also includes a field survey and development of existing base drainage along with a study of all bathrooms and locker rooms at Casey Field/Boodie Albert Stadium and the Jackson River Sport Complex. Funds will also be used for a structural evaluation of Boodie Albert Stadium.
Of particular concern is the playing surface at Casey Field that has been in place for nearly 60 years and is thought to be built over a former brick-making facility. The surface routinely settles and maintaining a smooth playing field requires ongoing maintenance.
“The Alleghany Foundation is committed to seeing that the school merger provides better facilities and opportunities for our children and youth,” said Dr. Sue Rollinson, president of The Alleghany Foundation Board of Directors. “Maintaining and enhancing our community-wide athletic facilities is a win-win opportunity for our schools, community recreation and economic development.”
School leaders also recognize the importance of quality athletic facilities for student-athletes in the merged school system.
“Covington City Public Schools appreciates the efforts of City Manager (Krystal) Onaitis and her team at city hall on this athletic feasibility study grant award from The Alleghany Foundation. It will be of great benefit to the students of the new school division. Also, thanks to The Alleghany Foundation for funding projects to strengthen our schools,” said Melinda Snead-Johnson, division superintendent and director of special education for Covington City Public Schools.
Kimberly Halterman, superintendent of Alleghany County Public Schools, concurred. “We are so pleased with the teamwork around planning for athletics and activities in the new Alleghany Highlands school division,” she said. “The Alleghany Foundation is a generous supporter of our exploration of various possibilities throughout our wonderful community that can support all our students.”
Covington Parks and Recreation Director Allen Dressler will spearhead the project. Initial discussions with the Roanoke-area engineering firm of AECOM began early December. Dressler envisions a three-phase project with the engineering aspect as Phase I, the design and bid process as Phase II and construction as Phase III.
Dressler projects that construction work would begin in late summer of 2022 with the facilities ready for opening kickoff when the Alleghany Cougars take the field following the school merger in August/September of 2023. “The realistic goal would be to begin next summer,” he said.
Casey Field will remain a natural playing surface after the work is completed. Dressler noted that Casey Field was named the Sport Turf Managers Association High School Field of the Year in 1997.
“I have a lot of personal and public interest in Casey Field, because I feel it is a notable facility to visitors when entering the city of Covington,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to provide a state-of-the-art facility that is a positive reflection on the Alleghany Highlands, and it leaves a lasting impression on the folks who visit for athletic events. Hopefully, when I walk away, it will have another 59 years of quality play in it.”
Dressler also expressed his gratitude to The Alleghany Foundation for funding this project and other endeavors throughout the years. “I want to thank The Alleghany Foundation for recognizing what I term Phase I and the engineering study of these two facilities,” he said. “The Alleghany Foundation has been good to the city and to myself, particularly for grants and projects around the city, and I can’t thank them enough for believing in us. I’m also thankful that they believe in this project.”
The Alleghany Foundation has five focus areas, and this project contributes to three of them. It primarily falls under the Educational Excellence focus area. At the same time, it also furthers efforts in the focus areas of Health and Wellness and Economic Transformation. Key to encouraging physical activity is having accessible, high-quality facilities. “These high-quality facilities also add to the range of attractions that not only enhance the quality of life in the region but also draw visitors, support tourism development, and provide amenities to people looking to move here,” commented Donnan.
About The Alleghany Foundation: The Alleghany Foundation was established in 1995 with $35 million in proceeds from the sale of Alleghany Regional Hospital. The foundation’s vision is to be a resource for and partner with eligible organizations to make the Alleghany Highlands a civically engaged, prosperous region that builds upon its assets to produce opportunities for residents. The total annual awards from The Alleghany Foundation now add up to more than $60 million. For more information, visit www.alleghanyfoundation.org.