The grass is not always greener on the other side, sometimes it is silver. Garry Barry Stadium, which opened in the fall of 1959, will receive a host of new renovations to the field and surrounding area.
The $2.5 million upgrade will include a silver/gray football field, a new track, video scoreboard, sound system, drainage system and upgraded parking.
According to Travis Whitley, District 11 project manager, the track and field project cost $2.1 million; ADA/parking improvements cost $333,000 and the videoboard totals $250,000.
Funding for the renovations came from the District 11 general fund and the Mill Levy Override, which came from a voter-approved tax increase in 2017.
The new turf will resemble Eastern Michigan University’s field, which is one of a few silver/gray fields in the country.
Since four District 11 high schools share the stadium – Doherty, Palmer, Mitchell and Coronado – Chris Noll, District 11 director of athletics and activities, said district athletic directors did not want the stadium’s color scheme to lean toward one team.
“Most people as they think about doing something different than green, you have to be careful,” he said. “There have been some fields that have been bright red or bright blue and that gets obnoxious. We wanted to try to stick a little bit to the neutral.”
Since Season D occurred deep into summer, Noll said construction could not begin until June 14, three days after the final track meet at the stadium.
Noll said the district expects upgrades to be completed by Aug. 26, one day before Mitchell and Palmer open the football season.
“It was a three-and-a-half-month project that we’re putting into a two-and-a-half-month window,” Noll said. “When (Colorado High School Activities Association) backed up our seasons [in 2020] and track got bumped back, we had track meets at the stadium until June 14. Normally, we would’ve started this at the beginning of June but with COVID, it set our spring sports back and backed up this project.”
Despite the time crunch, Whitley said they will be prepared to host games on the turf once football officially starts.
“There may be a few loose ends that need tying but it’s going to be occupied on that date one way or the other,” he said.
The nearly 20-year-old drainage system at Garry Berry, which Noll said previously “outlived its life and needed to be replaced” also will be completed soon.
“We dealt with rain during our games where [drainage issues] became obvious,” Noll said. “A couple of our graduations dealt with rain and that’s when we knew we needed to fix this thing because the field wasn’t draining.”
Noll and Whitley hope upgrades attract bigger events in the future. Garry Berry Stadium is used year-round and Noll said they host four of the biggest track and field meets each year: Palmer Terror Invitational, Petrelli and Hunt Invitational, Cougar Classic and the Doherty Spartan Invite.
CHSAA will inspect the field later this month to determine if it is suitable to host state field hockey, lacrosse and semifinal soccer games.
After hosting the boys and girls state basketball tournament at the Broadmoor World Arena last season, Noll believes D11 can field the responsibility.
“[CHSAA looks to see if] the facilities are good. That’s going to be an easy checkmark,” Noll said. “[CHSAA also looks to see] if the potential host knows how to run events? … District 11 knows how to run events. So, we’ll hit that checkmark pretty easily as well.”
As for football, Jason Cauley, Mitchell High School’s football coach, said he is excited for the new look as well as the fresh start as it coincides with the school’s recent changes.
Mitchell recently released its staff in hopes to remove its tag as a priority improvement school.
Cauley, who previously coached at Vista Ridge, recognizes coaching the Marauders is a stark contrast from his previous job. But he is prepared for the challenge, no matter the circumstances.
“I’m from Alabama, I don’t care if it’s midnight, if it’s 3 in the morning – I get up early anyway – I’ll play anybody, anywhere and at any time,” he said. “I don’t care where we play as long as those kids get to go out there and do what they love.”
Cauley added Tracy Babers to his staff along with Chuck Gibbs. Babers is the brother of Syracuse football coach Dino Babers. He coached at multiple colleges in California and won a state title and recently helped coach Daryon Wilson to a state title in the long jump in track and field.
Gibbs is the son of Alex Gibbs, who coached the Denver Broncos’ offensive line during their Super Bowl runs in the late 1990s.
“I’m excited for these kids and they are going to learn a lot,” Cauley said. “We might have just varsity this year, but they’ll be ready to go the following year. These changes are going to create a different climate and culture when people come play at D11.”