New Fieldhouse, New Tradition in Bellaire

In more than a century of high school football, the accolades of the Bellaire Big Reds include numerous conference and regional championships, while multiple alumni have advanced all the way to the NFL.

Sophomore linebacker T.J. Bell appreciates all this, but he’s glad the current team will get to start a “new tradition” with the opening of the new $1.8 million fieldhouse. The Big Reds host the Caldwell Redskins at 12:30 p.m. today at Nelson Field, with both teams set to use the spacious new locker rooms.

“We needed a fresh start. We are ready to start a new tradition,” Bell said Friday while organizing his locker during an open house event at the facility. “This place has everything we need.”

According to Bellaire Superintendent Darren Jenkins, the facility — built directly behind the visiting stands at Nelson Field –includes more than 12,000 square feet of space. In addition to home and visitor locker rooms, there is a coach’s office, a weight room, a training room and plenty of equipment storage space.

“The old building, really, was not structurally sound anymore. It was not conducive to our needs,” Jenkins said of the 1964 structure that demolition contractors recently removed.

In addition to the fieldhouse, school officials are now building an artificial turf practice field on the space formerly occupied by the grass practice field. Jenkins hopes to have this open by Oct. 1, although only gravel was in place Friday.

“We wanted an all-weather surface. It will reduce maintenance costs,” Jenkins said, adding the turf comes with a 10-year warranty. “At times in the past, our practice field would get in really bad shape. This will take care of that.”

Although the practice field will be artificial, the playing surface at Nelson Field will remain grass.

Bellaire Board of Education member John LaRoche played tight end for the Big Reds before graduating in 1989. However, he emphasized the facility in not just for football, as the wrestling, cross country and track teams will also benefit.

LaRoche and Jenkins said the school recently emerged from the Ohio Department of Education’s “fiscal emergency” status, a condition in which the district languished for several years.

“This district is certainly on the upswing in terms of both academics and morale,” Jenkins added.