KENOVA - Out with the old, in with the new. Or scrap the new, refurbish the old. Ric Griffith votes for refurbish.
The Kenova businessman and former mayor has a plan to convert Ward-Craycraft Stadium, the beloved home of Ceredo-Kenova High School football and baseball from 1964 until the school closed in 1997, from an eyesore back to the jewel both communities once again can take pride in. The new complex would come into view by those traveling on the U.S. 60 main drag when they approach the new Ceredo-Kenova Elementary School which is scheduled to be built on the site of the former C-K High School. The anticipated opening is August 2017.
Griffith will unveil his plan Saturday night at the Ceredo-Kenova High School football reunion at First Baptist Church of Kenova.
"Can we return to what we once had? No. Can we preserve it? Yes," Griffith said. "It would provide historic and artistic enhancement. It can be done."
Griffith's fear is the Wayne County Board of Education will resort to the wrecking ball and wipe out a piece of history. The board already has formed a committee. Griffith was not asked to be on the committee.
The stadium has not been used for events since August 2011 when modular buildings became the temporary home of Kenova Elementary. The former school building was closed in May of that year after a sinkhole was found near one of the former building's foundation and underneath the building itself.
When Griffith was mayor, an agreement was reached between the city and the Board of Education to switch properties so the former high school property becomes the site of the new C-K Elementary. In the agreement, the Board of Education agreed to restore the football and baseball fields back to the original condition for use by the middle school, youth leagues and the community.
A proposal from officials with the Board of Education said if the concrete stadium structure was torn down, it would be replaced by aluminum bleachers (capacity 800). Griffith is calling for an independent study of the facility to be done.
"I spoke with David Ferguson with ZMM Architects who said it would be more expensive to demolish the stadium rather than restore it," Griffith said. "He said restoring the stadium would cost 80 percent of the price of demolition. We have time to do the analysis and repairs before the new school opens."
The concrete bleachers, which hold about 2,000, the press box (named in honor of former The Herald-Dispatch reporter Jack Hardin) and all other structures in Ward-Craycraft Stadium were paid for and built by the people of Ceredo and Kenova.
Griffith has come up with a sketch for board members and anyone else to see. The first sketch shows the home side of the current stadium. The second sketch highlights what the facility would look like after the makeover.
He notes that structural repairs and handrails are needed for the football bleachers after all the years of sitting empty.
The C-K Business Association agreed to be the entity that would collect funding for the stadium project and that On TRAC and Main Street programs have agreed to help in the effort. Griffith isn't worried about not having enough donors/volunteers to pull it off.
"They came through before. They'll come through again," he said.
Other modifications would include removing the overhang in the back of the stadium, fixing the sidewalk, power washing the old paint and repainting, fixing other problems and hanging 12 murals of history from the six openings of the stadium. He said the murals will be like the ones hanging in Joan C. Edwards Stadium at Marshall University and would light up at night.
"The murals will tell the history of C-K High School, Kenova and Ceredo elementary schools and the communities of Ceredo and Kenova," Griffith said.
There would be a flower bed with a sign in front on U.S. 60 identifying the stadium and the new school. It would also be lit at night.
Griffith said another plus is Kenova is the first point of the historic Midland Trail, also known as U.S. 60, and it would attract visitors to the area.
Griffith said he hopes the board will see the project goes deeper than just education.
"This would engage the community beyond education," he said. "It would rekindle a relationship with the community."
All former C-K football players are invited to the reunion dinner. The 1965 West Virginia Class AA championship team will be honored along with former coach Carl Ward. The Wonders won 11 state football championships -10 under Ward and the final one in 1994 under Don Money. C-K, Vinson and Buffalo consolidated to form Spring Valley High School. The new school opened in 1998.
Reunion dinner tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for students and $5 for children 12 and under. They are available at Griffith & Feil Drug, C-K Florist and Kenova Elementary.