At Neosho Wildcat Pride Night before the dawn of a new school year last August, new Neosho Superintendent Jim Cummins touched on athletic facility upgrades.
That subject was explored in much greater detail and depth for 90 minutes Wednesday night during an informational meeting held inside the high school cafeteria.
Cummins’ introduction Wednesday was basically the same as it was back in August.
“Basically, where we’re coming from is a place where a lot of facilities here in Neosho have not changed since 1984 when I graduated,” Cummins said.
The informational meeting introduced possible facility upgrades that would have to be achieved through private fundraising and district reserves. The more than 80 attendees — including community members, coaches, and administrators — seated at tables in mostly groups of seven were asked to create a list of 10 areas they would like to see addressed, namely locker rooms, bathrooms, and coaches’ offices at Bob Anderson Stadium, Roy B. Shaver Stadium, and the high school gym.
Wednesday night was just an early step toward future upgrades for Neosho High athletics.
Cummins and the attendees first named some positives about Neosho facilities — including the high school gym’s atmosphere (especially when Neosho and McDonald County play or during the Neosho Holiday Classic) and the hillside setting at Bob Anderson.
“Our weight facility is pretty nice,” Neosho football head coach Leon Miller added. “It’s one of the best I’ve ever been around. We’ve got plenty of space to get things done, so that’s a positive. Not that we couldn’t use additional space, but what we’ve got is nice.”
Speaking of football and Bob Anderson, talk of making the playing surface field turf has been prevalent, especially since only two schools (Neosho and Willard) in the Central Ozark Conference currently play on natural grass. Carthage and Republic have recently unveiled new football stadiums.
Cummins addressed this subject Wednesday.
“Most of the high school is in the flood plain,” Cummins said. “What does that mean? In discussion with the architect, it means that it would cost somewhere between 60 and 100 grand to petition FEMA to allow us to move the ditch. … The likelihood of us turfing the football field is probably off the table.”
“The question is, Do we make it the nicest grass field in Southwest Missouri and the region?” Cummins added. “Or do we think about a different venue and the pros and cons of that?”
Issues with facilities have cost Neosho the right to host district events in multiple sports.
“I’ve been a soccer coach and am now the girls basketball coach,” Neosho girls basketball head coach Matt Hixson said. “As part of the soccer program, we were always told that we were not able to host districts here because the soccer field where they’re presently playing is too far away from a FEMA shelter. To host districts and playoff season games, you have to have certain facilities in place for that and I believe the new facility, once it’s completed, will fix that problem.
“The other thing is, we’ve hosted districts in basketball once (2018) since I’ve been here and one of the big complaints was our locker room situation at the high school. We had to move districts to the junior high, which worked out great for the locker rooms, but then people were complaining about a lack of seating over at the junior high, because it’s not really meant for a venue of that caliber.”
“The way that the district hosting process works is every year now, MSHSAA determines who is in what district,” Neosho athletic director Cori Reid said. “Whatever schools are in that specific district, each year now, they can say they’re interested in hosting or not. An email goes out to all the ADs, who wants to host, and then everybody votes on that. For basketball, we can say that we previously wanted to host, but the fact that we didn’t have four locker room facilities here in this building was the reason no one would vote for it. The schools in that district vote where they want to go. If somebody says, well, they’ve got the best facility in the area and that’s where we want to play, that’s who people will likely vote for.”