Members of the Mobile County School Board, the Mobile County Public School System staff, Williamson High coaches and staff and community supporters participate in Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremonies for an on-campus football stadium at the school. (Arthur L. Mack/Call News)
By ARTHUR L. MACK
Williamson High head football coach Antonio Coleman was all smiles after groundbreaking ceremonies Wednesday for the school’s on-campus stadium.
The stadium will be built where the practice field is located and the Mobile County School Board will seek bids for construction once plans are approved by the state. Until then, the Lions will continue to play at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
For Coleman, who starred at Williamson and Auburn University, the stadium will be worth the wait.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “I walked this same field, I walked these same halls, and who would have ever thought we would have our own stadium where we can actually call home? Ladd Stadium has been such a blessing to us but having teams coming to visit, they’re actually coming to the Lions Den.”
Former Williamson players Nick Fairley, an All-American defensive lineman at Auburn, and JaMarcus Russell, a former LSU star quarterback and the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NFL draft, were also on hand for the groundbreaking.
“Nowhere near (my wildest dreams),” said Fairley, who went on to play with the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints. “I remember the time we walked from our fieldhouse across the way to Ladd. It means a lot for the community that it’s finally here and they can rejoice in it too.”
Russell, now an assistant coach at Williamson, was relieved the new stadium is moving forward.
“All the stuff we were hearing about we wasn’t going to receive it and it wasn’t going to happen and now that it’s finally happening, we can have something of our own,” he said. “It’s good for the community and it shows the work that was put in before I got here and that is still being put in to this day.”
New on-campus stadiums have been built at B.C. Rain, Davidson, LeFlore and Vigor. Murphy, because it is landlocked, is the only Mobile County public school without an on-campus facility.
Groundbreaking for Williamson’s stadium came after months of wrangling and questions if it would even be built. The City of Mobile finally worked out an agreement with the Mobile County Public School System to sell land where the current practice field and track are located.
“Like we always say, we believed we would be able to do it and we were able to execute it,” school board president Sherry McDade said. “It’s a great thing for the community and they’ve got some great people, some seasoned people, who worked in this community that worked hard to get us where we are today.
“This stadium will be one of the more popular high school stadiums in our city because the community will be able to come out here and take a look at this stadium and students will be able to walk out of that building and look at this stadium. It will instill in them the pride that they are vested in but more pride will be in their veins.”