JACKSONVILLE — With the anniversary of the tornado that hit Jacksonville State's campus coming Tuesday, all the playing arenas are back and hosting games and fans.
Pete Mathews Coliseum has no trouble hosting men's and women's basketball games and volleyball matches. University Field opened for JSU softball games Wednesday. The soccer field and tennis courts are open for business, too.
Still, there is work to do, especially with the coliseum as repairs continue.
"The coliseum is about 80 percent done," JSU athletics director Greg Seitz said. "For all of our venues, one of our biggest priorities is we wanted our teams to be able to come back and play. For the coliseum, we wanted to be able to allow our fans to come, which is why we wanted to complete the floor, the seating area and the lobby first."
Seitz said the basketball coaches' offices aren't completed for either the men's or women's teams. Also, the locker rooms need work for men's and women's basketball, women's soccer and visiting teams.
Seitz added that the soccer field was a priority because the JSU team had a home match scheduled for this past August. The team was able to play all of its home schedule at its own field.
The men's and women's basketball teams had home games scheduled for November, but because of repair work, the coliseum wasn't ready to host games until December. The women's basketball team played two November games at Cherokee Arena in Centre, while the men played one November contest there.
The volleyball team played its fall schedule at Kennamer Hall on campus.
The tornado took down trees, power poles and the fences at JSU's softball stadium. The Gamecocks still could practice there after a cleanup weekend put together by program alumni, but the Jacksonville State softball team played its remaining 2018 home schedule at Choccolocco Park.
This season, repair work on the softball field and the addition of artificial turf that covers the playing surface meant the team couldn't practice at home until Tuesday. The first two home dates were at Choccolocco Park. The Gamecocks returned to University Field for their first home game Wednesday.
Still, Seitz said the stadium is "90 percent complete."
He said that on Tuesday, sod will be put on the surface beyond the outfield fence, where some fans like to set up folding chairs and watch the game. He added JSU also will put padding on the outfield fence, and also is in the process of building a bullpen area for JSU pitchers next to the Gamecocks' dugout.
The new JSU baseball field wasn't damaged by the storm a year ago, but it was under construction at the time and work was slowed as the campus recovered. The tornado apparently just missed the stadium. An 18-wheel truck that housed the team's equipment was parked next to the baseball facility, and the storm picked it up and threw it on its side across the street.
The JSU baseball team played its home games at Choccolocco Park for the two years in which the on-campus stadium was under construction. Before the storm, the school had hoped it would move into the new place before the end of the 2018 season.
New Rudy Abbott Field at Jim Case Stadium opened for games this past fall when JSU hosted Mississippi State and Shelton State Community College for exhibition games.
"We know how important it is for our teams to be on campus," Seitz said. "Our players want to be on campus. They want their fellow students to have an easier time coming to see them play."