Tuesday, 07 July 2020 21:10

New softball locker room, indoor hitting facility take shape at Richmond

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In the foreground, the concrete foundation for the softball team's new indoor hitting facility is set, as the new locker room sits closer to the field. In the foreground, the concrete foundation for the softball team's new indoor hitting facility is set, as the new locker room sits closer to the field. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

 

ROCKINGHAM — On the otherwise quiet athletic fields of Richmond Senior High School, the sounds of construction workers hammering away is replacing the usual hustle and bustle of summer workouts.

Near the south edge of Richmond’s campus, two new buildings are currently underway. As first reported by the Richmond Observer in early May, the Lady Raider softball program was getting a long-awaited facelift.

Thanks to a $45,000 grant from the Cole Foundation, along with another $15,000 secured by anonymous donors, the softball program was met halfway by the Richmond County Board of Education to have a locker room and indoor hitting facility built next to the field.

The project, which is being headed by Southern Builders, Inc., broke ground on June 15. G.R. Kindley has been helping with the construction alongside his son Joe Kindley, the owner of Southern Builders, and has worked closely with Jean Way, who was responsible for getting the grant money.

“Mr. Kindley is a really good friend of mine and he said to me one day if I wanted to work on this project,” Way said. “It got me thinking about writing the grant, and Mr. Kindley has been very dedicated to this project and has spent a lot of time overseeing it. 

“It’s kind of a 24/7 job,” she chuckled. “But what else would I be doing right now? If I can help somebody it makes it all the better.”

Way, who was a longtime educator and coach in Richmond County, considers herself nothing more than “a helper” on the project. Her son, Mike Way, is in his first full year as the Lady Raiders’ head coach.

The two-building project was initially priced at $105K, and the BOE matched the $45,000 grant after its approval of the project in the spring. But as construction got underway, it was decided to upgrade to using a steel-structured building, and a handicap accessible bathroom and laundry room were also added.

An additional $10,000 was raised to meet the needs and currently the locker room building is nearly complete. It sits along the left field line where the former bullpen and outdoor batting cage were located.

“I was out there (on Tuesday) to meet with the electrician to discuss putting in proper outlets,” Way said. “The brick has also been delivered, and the concrete foundation for the hitting facility has been poured.

“Soon the drywall will go up and the electrician should start Wednesday,” she continued. “The steel beams are also there, and once Southern Builders wraps up another project they’re working on, more guys will be sent over to help put it up.”

The new locker room stands partly completed along the left field line. (Kyle Pillar)

The idea of putting in a locker room for the softball team has been talked about for several years, as the program didn’t have a facility on site to use. Way got involved with the softball team five years ago when her granddaughter and 2019 graduate Greyson Way made the varsity team as a freshman.

Former head coach Wendy Wallace (2007-2019) mentioned the possibility of having a locker room and a semi-enclosed hitting space built. The current project, though delayed due to not being able to produce funds, is a step up with the inclusive indoor hitting and training space.

“It’s pretty exciting seeing all of this happen,” Way shared. “I would have loved for Wendy to have had this when she coached. The locker room seems so much bigger now that it’s closed in.

“Mr. Kindley and I are both very excited and you just wouldn’t believe how much we talk about it,” she added with a laugh. “We’re excited for the girls and the coaches, and we know it’s something children will benefit from for years and years to come.”

Rob Ransom, Richmond’s athletic director and baseball coach, echoed Way’s sentiments by saying this is “an exciting time for the softball and baseball teams.” While a similar project for the Raider baseball team is in the works, it’s expected that the boys will also have access to the indoor facility for the time being.

Sitting 32 feet by 70 feet and across the road from the locker room, the indoor workout facility will feature artificial turf flooring, indoor bullpens and several batting cages. The hope is to have retractable nets installed so the space can be easily converted from a bullpen or batting cage to an open area for infield or agility drills.

Another step in the process will be to apply for grant money to pay for the batting cage netting, the retractable cables and washer and dryer.

An official name for the complex hasn’t been decided, but a plaque honoring the Cole Foundation grant will be placed on site. The building will be a “snow white color” and designs for the Raider diamond and softballs are being looked at to be painted on the side.

“I think these upgrades will make them a better team, and the girls will grow from seeing people in this community care about them,” Way said. “It’s been a community effort to give them a chance to practice when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to in the winter season or in the rain.

“The (local) interest in softball is dwindling, and I just want all kids to have an opportunity to play. “I want them to love the game again and hopefully this will be an incentive.”

Way added that she thinks the new facilities could serve as a way for the Lady Raider softball team to have clinics for girls of all ages to create an interest in the sport. She said she can “foresee this helping the program all the way from the youngest athletes to the high school level.”

As this project wraps up, Way is already eyeing her next project, which is a similar facility for the baseball team located across campus.

Last modified on Wednesday, 08 July 2020 12:54

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

Twitter: ROSports_