BIDWELL, Ohio — There’s no place like home … especially for those who have never had somewhere to call their own.
After nearly two decades of relying on the older facilities at the defunct Kyger Creek High School, the River Valley community is now one major step closer to having its own identity — a place that the Raiders can truly call home.
River Valley High School — which originally opened in the fall of 1992 as a consolidation of Kyger Creek, Southwestern, North Gallia and Hannan Trace — will take another leap forward in establishing its own history this fall with the opening of the new athletic complex located on the premises of the now three-year old RVHS campus.
The Raiders — who for 18 years called all of Cheshire home — became more centrally-located within the school district with their move to Bidwell in the fall of 2010. That year, RVHS finally got something to call its own — but it didn’t fulfill that need for all athletic teams wearing the silver and black.
Now, with the arrival of a new football field, a new eight-lane track and a field house that provides a lot of luxuries that were not possible before — a new era of River Valley athletics is ready to take off.
Or as RVHS athletic director Jordan Hill notes, the Raiders can spend more time getting better at athletics and worry less about just getting to athletics.
“In the last few years, we’ve always had obstacles in traveling from here to Cheshire for athletic events. We made it work fine with what we had to work with, but now we are on our main campus in the heart of our school district,” Hill said. “Not only is it a tremendous asset to the River Valley community, but it’s also a bit of a relief to know that we don’t have to worry about our kids getting safely to a field that is 15 to 20 minutes away.
“Now we have this wonderful facility sitting right here … and it is ours. This a big step in the right direction for trying to build up our athletic programs here at River Valley. Really, I think we are all thrilled to be a part of this — from the athletes on up.”
The old Raider Field — which originally served as Kyger Creek’s home football and track facility — had a six-lane asphalt track and bleachers on both sides of the field, but that was about all that River Valley inherited. RVHS had to build a locker room and a weight room to accompany the old facility, and visiting teams usually had to enter the old high school just to get ready for either a game or for the ensuing trip home.
And on some occasions, opposing teams would just stay on the field at halftime to avoid the hassles of really having nowhere to go during the break.
There were a few water fountains and fewer restroom facilities for fans at the old Raider Field, which also included a handful of port-a-potties that still didn’t bring the total count over double-digits.
But now, with the new RVHS athletic complex ready to go, those problems appear to be completely in the past.
The obvious upgrades at the new stadium include a natural grass playing surface, with drainage, surrounded by an eight-lane track with enough bleachers on both sides of the place to seat over 1,000 fans.
The new facility is entrenched in a wooded-area that leaves room for future upgrades away from the field, and the discus event will take place just outside the stadium during the spring. All of the other track and field facilities are located within the new complex under new lighting.
A new scoreboard and flag pole sit in the north endzone, and then there is the southeast endzone, where the real jewel in this crown sits in the form of a field house.
The field house has 50 lockers apiece in both locker rooms, along with showers and other amenities that may be needed by players before a game, during halftime or after a contest. The RVHS coaches have their own office with showers, lockers, and both phone and Internet capabilities, and even the officials have their own place to get ready for and after a game.
The new field house also has spaces for a concession stand, men’s and women’s restrooms and also a unisex family restroom, available for parents of young children who might need a changing station during a contest. There are also spots for a weight room and the school’s first-ever athletic training room inside the field house to go along with a pair of ticket booths at the front of the entrance tunnel.
Besides the almost 30-plus toilets available for usage, there are also upgrades of at least a dozen sinks in the restrooms and three water fountains on the outside of the building. And in the press box, phone and Internet lines are available in a two-tiered building that also has central air.
Compared to what it had previously to work with, Hill knows that River Valley is fortunate to have such a fine facility at its disposal. He also believes that more than just the Raiders will benefit from this great complex.
“When you currently look at the Ohio Valley Conference, most of the schools already have an updated facility such as this. Now we are on an even playing field, and I would be guessing that those teams will enjoy coming here a lot more because it will be a lot like what they have at home,” Hill said. “And when we join the TVC in 2014, we are probably going to have one of the nicer venues in the conference — and that is something that we can really take pride in.
“If nothing else, I would think that it will entice other communities to come to River Valley for a sporting event — even if it’s just once to see the new facility.”
And with this facility serving as home to various River Valley teams down the road, Hill sees real potential for a pride factor in this school that was arguably never fully there.
“Honestly, I’m looking at this from a futuristic standpoint. This is where the future generations of Raiders will call home and they’ll be watching games at this facility, knowing that this is where they will play their games when they get older,” Hill said. “I know when I was young kid, I always looked ahead to where I would be playing my high school games. And where else could you possibly want to play your high school career than at a place like this.”
The complex officially opens during Week 3 of the football regular season against visiting Meigs, which will likely bring an enthusiastic set of crowds from both communities. Hill knows he has some things to work out as the season progresses at the new house, a task that he is both prepared and looking forward to doing.
But, in knowing how thankful fans will be for the Gallia County communities and the blessings that have been bestowed upon them, Hill also notes that everyone should also take a moment to thank those dedicated people that brought such inspiration to those schools.
“A lot of great people made this happen. It starts with Dr. Charla Evans and the Gallia County School Board, and also the Gridiron for Gallia Committee. The time and effort that they have put into making this a reality is nothing short of incredible,” Hill said. “People in the community need to recognize and thank these people for what they have given us here at River Valley, and South Gallia too. Without these people, this was not and is not a possibility.”
For second-year River Valley football coach Jerrod Sparling, the new stadium represents so much more than just a new place to play on Friday nights. It’s a chance to make real history … at River Valley.
“I think for us, first-and-foremost, it is an identity for a school that really hasn’t had one. If you look at the history of River Valley, we’ve never had anything that was truly our own until the high school came two years ago,” Sparling said. “Don’t get me wrong, because I liked the old stadium at Kyger Creek, but we always seemed to be consolidated group that went well out of our way to go where we could to prepare and play.
“Now, with this high school and this facility, here is our identity. This is our home, the home of the Raiders.”
With the football facility, the weight room and an athletic training room sitting just behind the new school building — instead of 15 miles away in Cheshire — the impact will be an immediately boost for a program that has traditionally been on the low side of the .500 mark.
As Sparling notes, this facility enables him to make this program better and better as the years progress. He is also humble in expressing his gratitude, as the RVHS football coach, for receiving such a great tool to work with while teaching.
“From an operations standpoint, this is just so efficient. For the first time since we moved into the new high school, we have five home games. We’re not packing up our stuff on Fridays like we would for road games, just to play at home,” Sparling said. “This facility alone gives us a minimum of 30 extra minutes practice time every night, and that makes a big difference in what we are doing on a week-by-week basis.
“I honestly cannot say enough good things about the people who put this project together. The efforts of so many now gives us a real chance to make something better of this program. It gives River Valley something worth playing for, both now and down the road.”
Hill — who also serves as the varsity boys basketball coach — says the new gymnasium was a huge boost to the indoor athletic programs two years ago when the new school arrived, and he sees this latest addition as just another step in building something special for all the Raider athletes.
“We have a lot of dedicated coaches here right now, people that want to get this entire athletic program headed in the right direction. We all agree that this facility gives us a huge kick in that direction,” Hill said. “We know our athletic history is not as strong as some others, but we are committed to making River Valley something new and better.
“Now that we have something that we can call our own, we definitely feel we can establish our own identity. That’s something that we really haven’t had the chance to do in the past.”