Raider Arena opens to crowd

Modern structure’s first official event set to be Cleveland High graduation May 13

LARRY C. BOWERS Banner Staff Writer
Posted 4/25/16

The ceremonyThe scoreboard high over the new Cleveland High Raider Arena basketball court read 66-19 (in favor of the home team Raiders) Sunday, and the success of the afternoon ribbon-cutting and …

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Raider Arena opens to crowd

Modern structure’s first official event set to be Cleveland High graduation May 13

Posted

The ceremony

The scoreboard high over the new Cleveland High Raider Arena basketball court read 66-19 (in favor of the home team Raiders) Sunday, and the success of the afternoon ribbon-cutting and official grand-opening was about as decisive as the fictional score.
Principal Autumn O’Bryan beamed with pride throughout the day, as an estimated 1,500-plus crowd visited the unique, $11 million community project. O’Bryan and Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland both emphasized the impressive facility is for all of the community, and not just a home for the school’s athletic programs.
The first major event to be held in the structure will be the 2016 Cleveland High graduation May 13.
Government and education leaders stepped up to say a few words Sunday afternoon, but the celebration was brief to enable visitors to mingle and tour the huge structure.
The gymnasium’s concessions area was used by Cleveland High’s culinary students and Chef Clyde Rush to serve refreshments to visitors.
Board of Education Chair Dawn Robinson, a longtime member of the school board, welcomed guests to Sunday’s celebration. “This is the same board that closed the old Raider Dome, which was no longer structurally sound,” she said.
Robinson praised the Cleveland City Council, which stepped up with $11 million from its fund balance to pay for the new facility. She also acknowledged the professional accomplishments of architect Brian Templeton of the Midland Design Group, Project Manager Cason Conn of Tri-Con Construction Company, and School System Maintenance Supervisor Hal Taylor, who served as a go-between for the school board.
She also mentioned Richard Shaw, who was a school board member when the project was initiated, and attending school board members Dr. Murl Dirksen, Peggy Pesterfield, Charlie Cogdill, Steve Morgan and George Meacham. Former Chairman Tom Cloud was unable to attend.
Also receiving thanks were the Bank of Cleveland and the family of the late Bobby Taylor and current Bank President Scott Taylor, which contributed $100,000 to complete the school’s new fitness center. The center had previously been eliminated from the original project, to cut costs.
“Our administrators worked very hard during the construction process,” added Robinson.
Interim Director of Schools Cathy Goodman said it was an honor to attend Sunday’s ceremony. “This would not have been possible without our City Council,” she said, adding thanks to all the community’s current, and past elected officials. She then introduced Rowland.
“This Council bit the bullet to build this gymnasium, and we’re not broke,” said the mayor, dressed in a nifty cap with a large Cleveland High “C.”
“Isn’t this a pretty good Arena?” he asked the crowd.
The mayor also answered a question which has been hanging around for some time. “I remember when we had a Jerry Lee Lewis concert in the old Dome,” he said. “That was when it began to shake up!” he said.
The mayor pointed out that the new Arena is a private/public facility for all of the community.
Also saying a few word to those in attendance was Cleveland High student body president Sarah Barnette. “Our 2016 senior class is very lucky, but it hasn’t been an easy year,” she said.
She added that this year’s seniors could not enjoy a gymnasium for pep rallies (and other events), but all future classes will be able to enjoy the new arena.
She closed by saying, “Thanks for the community’s support, thanks to Mrs. O’Bryan and, Go Raiders!”
The school’s principal brought the program to the ribbon-cutting. “Fifty years ago the community had a vision, and next year we’ll be graduating our 50th class,” O’Bryan said. She also pointed out the number of nostalgic displays located throughout the lobby, recognizing the many accomplishments of the school through the years.
“We’re proud to be Cleveland High School, and Raider Pride runs deep,” O’Bryan said.
The school’s principal acknowledged the fact a number of former principals, coaches, teachers, and many, many graduates were in attendance Sunday. She added that the tour of the new Raider Arena was designed as a self-guided event.
Hundreds spent the afternoon walking around the second-floor track, and mingling on the expansive playing surface which will host basketball, volleyball, wrestling and other events.
There is a huge scoreboard over the NBA-like floor, with additional scoreboards at each end of the gymnasium. Most of Cleveland High’s coaching staff, for all sports, were in attendance, as well as hundreds of teachers and students.
Asked about the crowd, O’Bryan estimated that, among students and staff alone, there were 500, plus visitors from the community. She said she was extremely pleased by the turnout, and the excitement over the arena.

The structure

Architect Brian Templeton discussed the uniqueness of Cleveland High School’s new Raider Arena Sunday afternoon.
“It’s rare when you find the opportunity to sink the playing area (floor surface) below the level of the bleachers and spectator areas,” he said of the $11 million project which replaced the school’s old Raider Dome.
The Raider Dome was built 50 years ago, but became structurally unsound.
Templeton, of Middle Tennessee’s Upland Design Group, said the unusual consequences had to happen just right for this type of gymnasium design. “You had to have just the right site (to make this happen),” he said. “All the pieces had to fit.”
“It would have been all wrong to have designed anything different,” Templeton said of the new gymnasium.
The spectator areas, and the second-floor track around the oval space, are all above the NBA-style playing surface which is described as a “floating” floor. There is also an elaborate scoreboard system high over the court, and at each end of the floor.
“It fit the concept we had available,” said Templeton.
He added this design is very rare for the region, but not unheard of. Members of the Cleveland Board of Education, especially former Coach Charlie Cogdill, went to Oak Ridge to view a similar structure.
“Oak Ridge’s facility is not a match, but it’s the closest thing in the region,” said Templeton. He added that there is a walking track in Oak Ridge, and the locker area is on ground level, adjacent to the playing area.
Cogdill expressed his approval of the Oak Ridge design to fellow school board members prior to construction.
Templeton had a very complimentary phrase about the design, saying, “It’s almost collegiate.”
Additional comments from the highly experienced architect described other features. “The sound system in this facility is phenomenal,” he said. “It is far above normal, sound-wise.”
The sound system is another reason several people have mentioned the opportunity for community events in the new facility, such as musical programs and/or concerts.
There is another exciting feature of the new Raider Arena. Nostalgic memorabilia is located in the lobby, between the athletic facility and the high school’s main, east wing.
Principal Autumn O’Bryan and her staff have put together a number of displays featuring the 50-year history of Cleveland High School, going into next year’s 50-year anniversary.
One of the displays shows the school’s three state football championship trophies won by the teams of former Coach Benny Monroe. Monroe was on hand for Sunday’s celebration.
Monroe compiled a 178-33 record in 18 years at the helm of the Blue Raiders. He then retired, but returned in recent years to compile a winning record at Ooltewah High School.
Monroe was accompanied Sunday by his wife, Jane McDade Monroe, a former educator.

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