HATTIESBURG — The uncompromising winds lasted less than 10 minutes on that day more than five months ago, and the steady rain that followed for several days afterward only added to the initial misery.
While much of the damage and debris has been carted off, approximately a month before the start of the 2013 football season, work continues on the athletic facilities at Hattiesburg High, Oak Grove High and Southern Miss.
The brunt of the damage caused by the EF4 tornado that struck Hattiesburg’s athletic facilities on Feb. 10, occurred at Smokie Harrington Park, the school’s baseball stadium, and nearby multi-use Watkins Gymnasium, which contains the school’s basketball court as well as coaches’ offices and weight room.
To a lesser extent, the damage extended across the street to D.I. Patrick Stadium, where the Tigers play football and soccer, and run track.
Lighting structures were battered, the playing turf was compromised and the fence surrounding the stadium needed repair
Hattiesburg athletic director Cheyenne Trussell said everything should be ready for the Tigers when they host Oak Grove on Sept. 20, the team’s first home game.
“Everything is scheduled to be completed between mid-October and Nov. 1, and that’s including the gym,” Trussell said. “Right now, contractors are focusing on the lower part of the building, which is mainly the coaches’ offices in the back. We’re looking at within six-to-eight weeks for completion on that. So by mid-August, we should have the coaches and the football team back in there.”
At Oak Grove, Warrior Field was in the tornado’s direct path. Work continues, but plenty remains to be done.
Lamar County superintendent Ben Burnett said there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for work on the lighting structures and press box.
“The deadline, I believe, is Aug. 10 for the lighting to be installed,” he said. “And that’s very similar to the deadline for the press box as well. (The press box) has been ordered, will be manufactured, and installed hopefully by Aug. 10.”
Burnett said that the stadium’s bleachers also are on the mend.
“They are replacing some of the actual panels, and as I understand it, they’re going to actually replace every bolt in the whole stadium,” he said.
At Southern Miss, the tornado embedded shards of debris in the artificial playing surface at Roberts Stadium and ruined the scoreboard at the football stadium’s north end.
A $550,000 project that replaced the damaged field with Matrix Turf from Hellas Sports Construction, Inc., got underway in April and recently wrapped up
The work which also included upgrades and repairs to the subsurface drainage system, left the surface alternating light green-dark green every five yards. “Golden Eagles” adorn the end zones in white text with a black border and gold background. The same “Southern Miss” logo displayed on USM’s black helmets is featured at midfield.
The scoreboard’s damaged light emitting display units have been removed, with the replacements expected to be installed well before the Golden Eagles open the season at 6 p.m. on Aug. 31 by hosting Texas State.
“The parts are on their way, they’ve shipped them, so the time frame remains the same, early August,” said Jeremy McClain, USM senior associate athletic director. “That will give us a few weeks to get acclimated.”
The work is being done by Laurel-based Capturion Network, which did the original, $3.2 million project six years ago. Insurance will cover the cost.