Stadium

Friends Kerry Nelson (left) and Dale Harris (right) relax as they take a brief break from their work on a recent evening at Tuck Dillard Memorial Stadium. The freshly painted concession stand/restroom building in the background displays the Columbia Blue and White colors of Halifax County High School.

Over 300 man-hours. More than 100 gallons of paint. Numerous paint brushes and rollers. Weed killer. Cleaning items. A number of new LED light bulbs. A lot of elbow grease.

That, and a lot more, have gone into transforming Tuck Dillard Memorial Stadium from the dingy place it was to a neat, clean, fresh-looking place for fans that will be attending Halifax County High School varsity football, Comets junior varsity football and Halifax County Middle School football games this fall. Fans attending high school and middle school soccer games at the stadium this coming spring will enjoy the spruce-up of the stadium as well.

Friends Dale Harris and Kerry Nelson decided a year or more ago something needed to be done about the conditions at the stadium. Their children, student-athletes at Halifax County High School, have played or are still playing on Comets teams at the stadium.

The condition of the stadium was such that they decided enough was enough.

“We’ve been talking about this for a year,” Harris said while the pair took a brief break during a recent evening of working at the stadium.

“We said this year we’re doing it no matter what,” Nelson added.

Harris and Nelson spearheaded the project, but had lots of help. Comets football players and coaches, Comets cheerleaders and their coach Tammie Saunders, a few citizens from the community and Halifax County High School Athletic Director Allen Lawter pitched in a helping hand. The Comets football players and cheerleaders, along with their coaches, put in four workdays on the project.

The effort it has taken to get the project done has been more than worth it.

“It’s for the kids,” Harris explained.

“It’s for the coaches and the community. Just about everybody that was involved played a sport here. This is for the Tuck Dillard family too. I think they would be very proud of what’ve done.

“It’s our house too,” added Harris.

“It’s a shame we all let it get in the shape that it has gotten in.”

Nelson and Harris are very appreciative of the support they have received in undertaking the stadium clean-up effort. Both men emphatically emphasize this project is not about them and credit for the project’s success extends to a lot of people.

“This wasn’t just a two-man show,” Harris stressed.

“We thank everybody, every kid that picked up a paint brush, the high school administrators that came over for their support, and the people from the community that helped on workdays. It has taken everybody that has helped in any way at all to get this done.”

One important aspect that needs pointing out is that this project did not address any of the underlying issues present at the stadium. The need for a new stadium continues to exist.

“We didn’t do anything structurally,” Harris pointed out.

“Hopefully one day we can all come in here and sit back and enjoy a brand new stadium.”

Off and running

The hardest part, Harris said, was getting started.

“Once we got started, it became easier every night,” Harris said.

“Once you get started you can’t stop.”

“We had a lot of eyes pointing out things,” Nelson pointed out.

“Grayson (Comets head coach Grayson Throckmorton) Allen (Lawter) and (Halifax County High School principal) Michael Lewis, everybody saw things that were needed. We just kind of took it and ran with it.”

Nelson and Harris were able to secure donations for various things that were needed, including the use of a 100-foot man-lift that was used to paint the press box. A contact with Sherwin Williams Paint Company that Nelson knew donated brushes and rollers through the company.

“All we had to do was send him an e-mail and tell him what it was going to be used for,” Nelson explained.

“I went to Crisfield, Maryland, and he loaded my truck up with brushes and rollers. I came back with 400 paint brushes.”

Morgan Lumber Company, where Nelson is employed, and J.M. Huber, where Harris is employed, contributed to the project.

“John Morgan, who owns the place where I work, his kids go to school here at Halifax County High School too,” Nelson pointed out.

“He was like whatever it is we need to do, let’s do it. Our employers let us leave work early so we could do this, and let us use their equipment. John has donated things. Huber has donated things. They get a lot of credit for this too.”

Completing the transformation

While there are several small things like some touch-up work with paint, changing out old light bulbs and cleaning the scoreboard remaining to be tackled, the majority of the work is complete.

“We still have a few things to do,” Harris said, “but I think we can be at 100% (complete) or close to it by the time of the Benefit Game.”

Nelson said people are already noticing the big difference in how much better the stadium looks.

“You can’t believe the number of people that come here every night walking or whatever, and have told us unbelievable, great job, looks great,” Nelson said.

“People will pull in on their cars, get out, look around, and take pictures. People know something’s going on.”

Harris says he is looking forward to he, Nelson and their families being able to come to the Benefit Game and the Comets’ first regular-season home game a week later knowing that Tuck Dillard Memorial Stadium is now a better place.

“After it’s all said and done and we’re sitting up there in the stands on the 50-yard line watching the kids play ball, I’m going to breathe easily, and I’m going to take pride in what we all have done,” he remarked.

Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at jchandler@gazettevirginian.com.

Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at jchandler@gazettevirginian.com