“In addition to meeting the need for more seating, we have also been the subject of some jokes due to our lack of seating,” Principal Robert Shaw said. “You may be familiar with the phrase, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ I have learned that it also takes a village to build visitor stands.”
The Hillgrove Foundation, the Cobb County School District, Superior Plumbing, Herff-Jones, and the school’s booster clubs have put together the necessary funds for the project. Additional money came from some of the school’s sports programs reducing their budgets for just this year.
“It really was an all-hands-on-deck effort,” Shaw said. “What I am most proud of is that we have been able to do this without borrowing any money.”
The low bid of $195,000 came from the Dant Clayton bleacher company out of Louisville, Ky. This is just less than the $200,000 goal the Hillgrove Foundation had been shooting for since the organization’s inception two years ago.
Construction will begin when Dant Clayton obtains the necessary materials and permits, which “takes some time,” Shaw said. If things get underway soon and the weather permits, the school hopes the stands will be done by the Nov. 9 McEachern game.
Last year's game between the crosstown rivals at the Indians' stadium was a nail-biter, with the Hawks holding out in the end, 12-10.
Since Hillgrove first opened in 2006, visiting family, band members, students and other supporters have had to situate themselves as best they can on a dirt hill and a few temporary bleachers opposite the home stands (see attached video). Less seating has meant more crowding of teenage students, raising safety concerns with officials.
They have also worried about the affect on profits from football games, which fund many of the other sports programs at high schools.
“I have heard that many people would choose not to attend football games at Hillgrove because there was not enough seating,” Shaw said. “My hope is that more people will purchase tickets, which will allow us to do more for our students.”
Another minor setback is that the Georgia High School Association requires at least 6,000 seats for bigger schools like Hillgrove to host semi-final playoff games. During the first three rounds, there aren’t any rules other than the seating must be divided equally, and the finals are played at the Georgia Dome.
The new stands will add about 1,500 seats, bringing the total to 3,300. Since it still wouldn’t meet the 6,000-seat mark, Hillgrove could bring in temporary seating but would likely move to another Cobb high school football stadium for the game.
Though the situation is hypothetical, it is quite probable considering last season’s 11-1 record and the hopes the Hawks’ win on Friday bring to this season.
“We have a tremendous football program with great student athletes, strong parent support, and dedicated coaches,” Shaw noted.
Looking forward, there aren’t any set projects yet for the Hillgrove Foundation, which raised about $60,000 in its two years.
“We have asked the Hillgrove department chairs for some ideas,” Shaw said. “Since the stands is largely an athletic project, the foundation would like to look at meeting a need in the academic or fine arts areas at Hillgrove.”
But for now, the parents, students and supporters are happy to finally have the ball rolling on the visitor stands, the principal said.
“They are excited,” he said. “I think the Hillgrove community knows that this is a need we have had for a while, and it is a point of pride to get it done.”