The smell of grass, dirt and sweat mingles with that of cheesy nachos and hot dogs among the wild Bobcat fans in the bleachers on Friday nights. These fans not only cheer on the football team on Friday, but on all days of the year and do what they can to help the team out.
About four years ago, the Thayer Athletic Improvement Organization was created by a handful of industrious individuals who wanted to keep area youth active in sports and out of trouble. Recently, the organization built the new Community Field House at Thayer High School's football stadium. Kevin Steed, one of the founding members of the organization, explained what the organization is all about.
"Basically, when we did this it was strictly to help out with the athletic programs for extras that the school can't afford," Steed said.
"We all agree on this one principle and that is, we live in a small place where there's not a lot for our kids to do, and we all agree that we would rather our kids be playing ball than out running up and down the streets getting into trouble," Steed said. "We felt that if we could help in some way to keep our athletic programs top-knotch that maybe we could retain some of these kids to play ball and keep out of trouble."
Steed said all of the labor put into the new field house was donated by local businesses, contractors, plumbers, construction workers and ordinary Bobcat fans. "That's why the building was named Community Field House because if it wasn't for the community kicking in and the things that were done, every bit of the labor over there to build (the field house) was done by people in our town that (building) is their trade," Steed said. "They donated their labor, which is pretty remarkable."
Steed named off a few of the businesses that gave a helping hand, but he said he was afraid he would leave someone off the list if he kept naming them. "The list is a mile long," Steed said. "Every avenue that we turned, people helped us."
Steed said even competing businesses came together and worked on the project.
"There were people that showed up over there to do anything you can imagine," Steed said. "There were people that showed up who didn't even have kids in this school, nor have ever had kids in this school, but they live in this community."
"The name on the back of the building says what it is and where it came from, and that says a lot about our community," Steed said. "Good or bad, we put something together as a group."
"Our hope is they (football team) will be using the facility (the locker room part) at home games," Steed said. "We've been using the concession part for about two or three years." He said he hopes the players will be able to use the locker room by homecoming on Oct. 16. Though the players won't have lockers by that time, they will at least have a place to change that is closer to the field.
Steed said the old field house was built in the '60s and no longer suited the players' needs because the bathrooms didn't work, and fans would have problems with long lines at concessions.
The new field house is in its third year of construction and is nearly complete. All that is needed are lockers in the locker room, Steed said. "We're wanting to buy football-type lockers," he said.
Steed said the Bobcat Booster Club has taken it upon themselves to ask people for donations to buy the lockers. "If you wanted to come up and buy (a locker), I think the cost would be $200," Steed said. Those who buy a locker for the locker room would have a small plaque put on the locker that tells who donated it.
"We need to buy about 40 of them (lockers)," Steed said.
He said those who are interested in buying a locker can contact Sharron Brewer or any member of the Bobcat Booster Club.
Steed said the cost of building the field house was about $100,000. "That (the cost) was just for materials," Steed said.
"We had a lot of nay-sayers when we started this," Steed said. "There were a lot of people who said this couldn't be done."
"It's been a long road in some aspects, but a short road in others," Steed said. "It's just been amazing to watch, especially with the financial times we've had in our part of the world because we're not a wealthy community by any means, but it got done."
The football players, fans and students have enjoyed watching the field house go up and don't take it for granted. "I think kids pay more attention to what adults do for them than we give them credit for," Steed said. "It didn't hurt moral any for the football team to see the community building them something for their field." He said some of the kids also did some work on the field house.
"They (the kids) seem genuinely appreciative of it," Steed said.
He said the lockers are the last big thing that is needed, but if people still want to help out the Thayer Athletic Improvement Organization is a 501 3-c non-profit organization.
Once the field house is complete, the organization has some other plans. Steed said they've talked about the possibility of expanding the bleachers to include a special section for the band and another section for the handicapped. He also said the organization is planning on doing some work on the baseball field to bring it up-to-par with the football field.
"This (building the field house) has been the most phenomenal thing that I've ever seen take place in a small town," Steed said.