Upgrades planned for Jerry Simmons football stadium in Jennings

Published 4:35 pm Friday, June 28, 2024

Plans for a new field house, press box and concession stand at Jerry Simmons football stadium in Jennings are moving forward.

Members of the Jeff Davis Parish School Board’s Ward II committee agreed this week to the $3.5 million project as the next step in an ongoing update to the stadium which was built in 1939. The project will also include a new ticket booth and security upgrades including new lighting.

A $700,000 field replacement and irrigation project was completed earlier this year. The project also included repairs to the sidewalks and fencing, according to architect Stephen Hotard.

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“People driving by will feel like they have something new and fresh to look at,” Hotard said.

The stadium project is the final phase of a 20-year bond cycle to fund improvements to school facilities in Jennings, according to Superintendent John Hall.

“Jennings school board members have addressed and completed classroom projects and school safety upgrades at Jennings High School and Jennings Elementary School,” he said. “This final phase will provide the community of Jennings with a facility that meets the needs of its students while addressing specific safety issues in its design.”

The future of the Jennings school district is looking favorable as it enters the next several decades, he said.

“Jennings school board members have addressed aging buildings and made places for future projects that will be essential to the ongoing development of Jennings schools for the next 40 years,” he said.

“These revenues only come around every 20 years, so it is critical to consider what the schools in Jennings will need 20-40 years from now,” he continued. “This type of progressive forward planning will avoid the deterioration of facilities in our Jennings schools due to repairs not being addressed when they are needed. “

Hall, along with Ward II committee members, met with Hotard on Wednesday to discuss cost and plans for the stadium project.

School Board Finance Director Christin LeGros said she felt comfortable with the board spending $3.5 million on the project because most schools are in good shape with hefty maintenance funds. Although some schools will need air conditioners and computers replaced in the future, she said.

The majority of the project cost is expected to come from Ward II sales tax collections, contingency funds for Jennings schools and the remaining construction funds for Ward II schools projects.

“I think Jennings is really lucky to be in this situation to have the money left over from the bond to be able to address work at Jerry Simmons Stadium,” Hotard said. “That goes above and beyond any expectations that they had when they first passed the bond.”

In discussing options for the project Hotard told committee members a new concession stand would be better than renovating the existing stand which he considers to be overcrowded and not in a good location.

“That concession stand has lasted this long in the condition that it is in, which isn’t that great,” Hotard said, noting a new concession stand could last another 20 years.

The project would ease overcrowding for both concession stand workers and fans.

Board Member Greg Patterson said he hopes the new concession stand could be used for fundraisers for local organizations because it would be located in an open area next to the fence near the road.

A new press box will also replace the old box car to allow for more space and a modern facility for announcers and local media. The current press box is not ideal for renovating, Hotard said.

“I think it is a replace or keep it as is at this point,” he said, adding that some seats will be lost with a new press box.

The new field house will provide a safe shelter for implement weather and other emergencies.

A new ticket booth and wrought iron fence will be added to the new front facade to include a new entrance sign and improved parking.

Hotard anticipates bids could be let by September, with work underway by Nov. 1. The project is expected to be completed by August 2025 in time for the start of the new football season.