“For me, it’s like a step back 50 years in my life,” said Bruce, the son and former football player of legendary Cedar Bluff coach L.D. Bruce. “The first thought I had was I wished dad could get a 10-second glimpse of what we have here now. It is beautiful.”
While sitting there that afternoon, the memories came flooding back to Lynn Bruce, who recently wrote a book on his father. L.D. Bruce coached the Tigers from 1946-65. He died in 2000.
“A lot of people see it as a football stadium, but to me it’s a part of history,” he said. “I saw Harry and Larry Tucker, Boyd McHugh, Jim Bouchillon, David Bedwell, all All-State players over the years. It’s a history trip for me to go back in the stadium.”
The $750,000 renovation project, completed by Brian McKinney Construction, features a new press box and concession stand in addition to new bleachers. It will officially be unveiled Thursday night at 7 p.m., when the Tigers host longtime rival Gaylesville to open the 2012 high school football season.
The game will be the 74th meeting between the two schools. Cedar Bluff holds the edge in the longstanding series 54-17-2.
“Any time you have an opening game, the excitement level is there, but you throw in a region game and both schools have played each other for so long, that adds a little extra level of excitement,” Cedar Bluff coach Jonathan McWhorter said.
Like Lynn Bruce, McWhorter has a unique perspective on seeing the stadium renovations come to fruition. McWhorter also grew up in Cedar Bluff and played linebacker for the Tigers in the 1990s.
“Growing up here, playing here and being an alumni, I’m really proud to see this,” McWhorter said. “The whole community is. It’s a testament to our school system and our community. We’re really proud and excited to have this stadium as our home.”
McWhorter said his players are excited to take the field for the first time in front of their home crowd.
“It’s hard for them not to be excited about it,” he said. “They’ve been able to see it go up, and I’m sure when the stands fill up they’ll be even more excited, but we have to stay focused on the game.”
Cherokee County Schools Superintendent Brian Johnson said the project had been planned for over six years, but funding for the entire project was recently secured. Johnson said he’s “very pleased” with how well the project turned out.
“To actually walk out there and see it, I think the contractors and the architects have done a great job,” Johnson said. “Those bleachers we had were sub-standard. It was one of those things where you’d go to a ball game and look and there would be a large visiting crowd. You’d almost cringe when they were jumping up and down because those bleachers had been there for quite a while.
“We’re excited about it, and I know the community is excited about it. It’s a great opportunity to showcase it Thursday night. We’re looking forward to it.”
McWhorter said the school plans to an official dedication of the stadium on Sept. 14 when the Tigers host Coosa Christian. McWhorter also said the school plans to honor the 50th anniversary of the 1962 Cedar Bluff state championship team that night as well.