Facilities director updates progress on Searcy High School arena

Searcy School District Facilities Director Raymond Reynolds gives an update on the Searcy High School arena project at Wednesday night’s School Board meeting at the Central Office, saying workers are preparing to pour the “first slab” for the building.

Construction workers are preparing to pour “the first slab” for Searcy High School’s new, $26-million sports arena, for the weight room area, dressing rooms and offices that will be contained in the building, according to the district’s facilities director, Raymond Reynolds.

Reynolds gave an update to the Searcy School Board about the construction work at Wednesday’s regular meeting, saying it “is going really well.”

“Hopefully, they are finished pouring a big section of wall that they started earlier,” he said. “They’ve got the north end, which is the end with all the gravel, they have pretty much all the footings, I think they have one gray beam left to do on that end if they didn’t get it in today and they will start prepping it for the slab next week.”

Reynolds pointed out a big wall from drone footage and said “that’s only about half of it. Of course from there, it will be steel going up. It is going to be really high in the air.” He said the rest of the wall is expected to be poured next week.

“When you drive by, you can see how massive it is,” board Vice President Jimmy Simpson.

Baldwin and Shell Construction Co. out of Little Rock is handling construction of the arena.

Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart mentioned the steel beam delivery for the project, and Reynolds responded that “right now, they’re in the process of getting this north, getting it ready to pour the first slab.” He pointed out the area that “will be our first pour,” saying “we’re talking about from about where the weight room starts and all the dressing rooms and offices on that north end back around to I think the boys dressing room. That will be the first pour and then hopefully soon after they’ll go ahead and pour the rest of that in.

“They’ll have to leave this southwest corner out,” he said. “They won’t pour it yet and, of course, they’re not going to pour ... where the basketball court is going to go, so that will be last. They will leave the southwest corner out in order to get the crane in because it’s really going to have to be orchestrated when they start bringing in the precast bleachers and the steel at the same time. They just have to work theirself back out of that corner, working from north to the south.”

As far as the steel beams go, Reynolds said “we really got some good news on it. The steel is going to come in in five sequences, and it’s set to start arriving on November the 29th. There will be six loads come in between then and Dec. 2nd and this north end, which is part of that where the slab is going to be poured next week ... hopefully at the earliest they’ll start hanging it on Dec. 10th and it could be a little bit later.”

“One thing in our meeting Monday that they don’t want to do, they don’t want to get this first sequence hung so fast that the crane is sitting there a week or two waiting on sequence two to arrive,” he said, “because when sequence two arrives, that’s the long span joist that’s going to go from one side to the other. They are going to span 208-209 feet, so that will take some time to get those 16 beams across that.”

Jeff Crawford, the project manager from Baldwin and Shell, said he feels the project “is going good. “They’ve had really great weather. I think we’ve had three or four days that have just been a wash but that’s not bad in the time since we started.”

Former Superintendent Diane Barrett said in April that the substantial completion of the project is expected Dec. 6, 2022.

There had been talk of building a new arena for Searcy High School for the previous five years, Barrett said. She said other arenas were visited, information was gathered and it was in the design phase for a little over three years. Barrett said she believes the current facility was built in 1968 and renovated in 1983, adding a couple of end sections to it.

The new arena is being built behind Sullards Annex, the high school cafeteria. Barrett said before retiring that the new arena is being built “even larger than is required to host a state tournament, but the reason we are doing that is because we want it to be large enough that we could hold graduation ceremonies in it as well as other events.”

School/Community Coordinator Betsy Bailey said in addition to being used for basketball and volleyball, the new arena will also be used for competition cheer and dance team events.

“Also, building the arena will free up space for other facilities to be used for a number of programs,” Bailey said. “We are considering the possibility of a ROTC [Reserve Officers’ Training Corps] program but at this time we don’t have a location to house it and once the arena is built, we will have more space available.

“The plan is for wrestling to use the current gym, but we will have freedom to schedule multiple sports and activities at the same time once it is built and can better determine where each sport should be housed. We will also have a special cover that can be used on the floor of the arena in order to host large-venue events.”

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