SYLACAUGA -- For the first time in two football seasons, the Sylacauga Aggies Marching Band finally has a place to call home.
Two years after beginning construction on a new wing of the school on the band’s former stamping ground, Sylacauga High School has completed construction of the band's new practice field.
Completing the field took nearly a year longer than school officials initially estimated, making the band's homecoming that much sweeter. The band broke in the new field on Monday.
"It was wonderful," band director David Simpkins said. "It was really nice to have a place. It feels nice to know our leadership kind of went all out to give us a really nice place, too."
The Board of Education had voted in May to award the low bid of $121,000 to M.J. Brooks & Son for construction the a new field in the area between the SHS junior parking lot and the municipal pool, across Norton Avenue from the back of the school.
A new field was promised to the high school band when the school system built the addition to SHS.
Clearing the way for the field required demolishing the old Stanton house, a brick house which the school system had used as a tech building and a detention center.
The two years prior to its completion, band members lugged sousaphones, horns, stands and other practice equipment across hot pavement and railroad tracks to get to Central Park across from Blue Bell Creameries, where they were able to set up shop. And while the band had grown accustomed to its impromptu practice field, members of the current band have expressed appreciation at being able to have a field of their own.
Apart from avoiding transporting equipment and instruments between the school and Central Park, the band will no longer have to cross the railroad tracks, which Simpkins said posed a potential safety hazard. Simpkins said the new field poses less of a threat for sprained ankles and other potential injuries, as well.
Kaylee Gibbs, a senior and second-year drum major in Simpkins' band, said she was excited to have a place made specifically for her band to practice.
"It's awesome, because I remember being in middle school and having our band practice right there," Gibbs said. "It was very convenient just to step out the door and be able to do that, and the day we heard they were taking our field away to build a new building – which is great by the way – we kind of went, 'Aww.'"
Now, Simpkins, Gibbs and company plan to put the new field to good use, just in time for the 2014 football season.
"I think the kids feel like they've got a place of our own, this is our field," Simpkins said. "It's important."
Contact Zac Al-Khateeb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff Writer Zac Al-Khateeb: 256-235-3554. On Twitter @zalkhateeb_Star.