One of the primary goals of athletics is teaching athletes how to deal with adversity.
The past few seasons, Beckley has dealt with more than its fair share on the gridiron and found a way to fight through the tough times.
So, a little hiccup prior to the 2022 football campaign is not being looked at as a problem, but as an opportunity.
At approximately 10 a.m. Friday morning, the Beckley administration was informed by engineers that the traditional home bleachers had some structural issues.
Those issues would have to be addressed and corrected before fans would be allowed to use them once again.
“The county does routine maintenance on all the facilities. Over the course of that, there were some concerns that presented themselves on the home side of our bleachers,” first year Woodrow Wilson principal Ryan Stafford said. “We brought in two different structural engineering firms to consult with the Board of Education. Some of our fears were confirmed by them. The bleachers are going to take some work. The professionals are developing a plan to address some of the issues. Unfortunately, the hold up is going to be materials, just like everything else right now.”
Although the seating arrangements will be different, the good news for Beckley fans is that the Flying Eagles will still play football at Van Meter Stadium this year.
“We wanted to err on the side of caution. We didn’t want our kids and our community members up there until we are 100 percent sure that we are good moving forward,” Stafford said. “We are working right now on a plan. We love playing on campus and we determined that we can play all of our home games at Van Meter Stadium.”
Helping Stafford with the logistics for the upcoming season is first-year athletic director, Andrew Pinnick.
“I think people will catch on quickly that Andrew will be one of the best athletic directors in the state of W.Va. He will be a big asset to our school,” Stafford said.
The first change will be moving the home fans across the field to what has been traditionally the visitors bleachers.
“We are going to bring in some temporary bleachers and place those on the track for what has been traditionally the home side,” Stafford explained. “We will do some temporary fencing to form some separation between those bleachers and the playing surface. We pride ourselves on the way our stadium is set up. It is a safe atmosphere for our kids that are out there competing and we are going to make sure we can achieve that.”
Stafford also explained that relocating the concession stands will likely need to be done, but the weight room and the rest rooms under the home bleachers were deemed safe to use.
“We may be working out of some food trucks and getting people in the community to help us out with that,” Stafford said about the new concession plans.
Until all repairs are completed, there will also be some shuffling done to house the vast array of media that often attends Beckley games.
“Right now we have been given permission to use one of the press boxes. We are going to use the more open press box,” Stafford said. “What that will look like is, our timekeeper and our (public address) person, along with our coaches and the local media in that press box. On the new home side we will likely have the opposing coaches and film crew under a canopy. We have a lot of media and we are ironing out how to take care them. That plan is ongoing.”
While a pair of newcomers could have seen this situation as demoralizing, the new duo at Beckley is excited to make something new and special for Friday nights.
“It is what it is, but we are going to make it the best experience as possible. My job and Andrew’s job is while we are waiting for the bleachers to be repaired is to do some things that we have never done before,” Stafford said. “We are going to take some steps to make improvements to our game day atmosphere and try to do some cool things with our student body. I want people walking through the doors and feeling like this is the greatest atmosphere they have ever seen here, even with all that is going on. That is the goal.”
Another positive for Beckley is the fact that the Flying Eagles will be on the road the first two weeks of the season before hosting Parkersburg South Sept. 9.
“Our central office has been wonderful and they are working hard for us. We wish we could make these repairs tomorrow, but we have to make the best out of it. We are going to make it nice.”