Construction begins for new entrance, parking for Blakemore

George "Clay" Mitchell
Press Argus-Courier

Construction has begun for a new entrance to the Van Buren School District's Citizens Bank Stadium at Blakemore Field

In addition to the gate, the new facility will house the box office and an apparel/memorabilia store. Crews will construct a new concession stand under the home side of the bleachers, renovate the existing restrooms. New restrooms, a new concession stand and the officials' dressing room will be built near the visitor side on the east side stadium.

Parking will be expanded to an additional 147 spaces.

"We have one of the nicer stadiums, pressboxes and fields in the state," VBSD activities director Drew Cone said. "We want the rest of the facility to reflect that."

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When the football team moved to its present fieldhouse, the soccer program eventually took the building after moving from its previous structure, which was a refitted poolhouse. The soccer teams now use a portion of the J.J. Izard building as their dressing rooms.

The visitor locker room is also located in Izard.

Cone also said that there are additional long-term plans to improve the facility at Blakemore.

The seating and present fieldhouse was constructed back in 2000 and within a couple of years, the football team already outgrew the weight room. The weight room now serves as the film room and the weight-lifting equipment has been moved to portions of the indoor practice field. Various teams and programs utilize the indoor practice field and the weight equipment.

Artificial turf was added to the stadium in 2007 and the turf was replaced eight years later with its current alternating shades of green pattern, thanks to private donations.

When the new additions were made to the field in 2000, including the Iverson Riggs Pressbox, the rest of the facility remained unchanged as it existed nearly 40 years before. 

Other recent changes to the stadium included constructing a permanent bandstand behind the south endzone and a new state-of-the-art scoreboard. 

The school district partnered with Fort Smith’s MAHG Architecture firm for the $2.5M project. Beshears Construction, also out of Fort Smith, serves as construction manager and is working closely with VBSD maintenance director, Danny Spears and the district's maintenance team to complete the renovations. 

Visitors to the stadium have entered through the main gate adjacent to the field house, located on Alma Boulevard. The original field house was gifted to the school district in the mid-1970s by Mr. Forrest “Red” House.