Meade High getting improved facilities with casino assistance
Meade High School's multi-use stadium will look much different in about a month than what it does today.
In a project that began three years ago, construction is underway on a building that will house a ticket booth, concession stand and male and female restroom facilities. Additionally, a new set of 3,000 bleachers will soon be installed on the home side of the stadium that will give the school one of the largest — if not the largest — stadiums in terms of capacity in the county.
Walking around the facility earlier this week, it might have been hard to believe but work is scheduled to be completed by the middle of August, in plenty of time for the start of the fall sports season. If all goes to plan, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held on Sept. 8 prior to the Mustangs' football home-opener against rival Arundel.
The idea for the improvements came from the booster club, led by president Lorrie Short, then moved forward once Kevin Rutledge took over as athletic director.
"There's a lot that goes into any project before they even start laying any foundation," Rutledge said. "When I got here about three years ago, this was something that Lorrie and her booster group were already knee-deep in."
The initial idea was mainly for a building that would house the ticket booth, restrooms and concession stands. The school had been using portable restrooms, while the concession stand was small and lacked running water to serve items such as hot chocolate and coffee. Once an opportunity presented itself in the form of assistance from the Maryland Live! Casino, plans to replace the bleachers were put in place.
"We had a couple of opportunities that we couldn't pass up, and one was to replace the bleachers," Rutledge said. "We're hopeful to continue that relationship with (Maryland Live!)."
The assistance from the casino is in the form of grants recommended by the Local Development Council (LDC), which help to manage the allocation of county gaming tax revenue to local organizations. Because of the school's proximity to the casino, it is the only high school in the county eligible to receive the grants.
The Local Development Council was established in Anne Arundel County after the opening of Maryland Live! Casino on June 6, 2012. Appointed by the county executive, the Local Development Council consists of 15 members to serve and advise the county on recommendations for the distribution and expenditure of revenues raised at Maryland Live! through local impact grants.
Community-based organizations and nonprofit groups located generally within a three-mile radius of Maryland Live! are eligible to apply for a local impact grant.
In addition to two grants through the LDC, the booster club has also raised money for the project, the school has received donations from alumni and Sen. Ed DeGrange helped obtain a grant through the state.
"Everything we've done has been put toward this," said Short, in her sixth year as booster club president. "Our main focus has been building the pot for this project."
While the new building will be a welcome change, the bleachers are what many at the school are most excited about. Set to be installed in the next few weeks, they'll extend nearly the length of the field and will have a press box at the top with plenty of room for an announcer, members of the media as well as assistant coaches. The previous facility had just enough room for an announcer and maybe one other person.
As has been the case at Northeast, the improved facilities could help the school land additional events, such as state semifinal soccer, field hockey and lacrosse games.
"I can't wait. It's a long overdue project, and the kids deserve it," football coach Albert Jones said. "I know our kids feed off the energy of the crowd. Once the stands get in, we want to put on a good show."
The project will complete a series of improvements at the stadium over the last few years. The turf was replaced by the county and the track was also replaced within the last two years. A new scoreboard was also installed.
For Rutledge, who was at Northeast during the time when its athletic facilities received a major overhaul, he's hoping the improvements at Meade will be received just as well as at Northeast."
"At Northeast, it really changed everything," Rutledge said. "I'm really hoping to have the same effect here."