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By Dan Perrine
For The Record 

West Orange-Cove Event Center hosts graduation


Last updated 5/30/2023 at 5:13pm

The West Orange-Cove Event Center is 80 percent complete and hosted the graduation ceremony for the 2023 senior class at West Orange-Stark High School on Friday, May 26

A magnificent new facility at the West Orange-Stark High School is close to completion but was the site of an important activity on Friday, May 26. The West Orange-Cove Event Center hosted its first event with the graduation ceremony for the senior class of 2023 at West Orange-Stark.

The project to build the new West Orange-Cove Event Center has been about three years in the making. Funding for the center is from the 2018 school bond approved by voters at that time.

The COVID pandemic caused supply shortages which resulted in extensive delays during construction of the building. Window curtains for the outside of the event center and the new press box at Dan R. Hooks Stadium were put on hold as back orders for months until workers were able to catch up on the demand when the pandemic was lifted.

G&G Enterprises Construction Corporation based out of Orange has been the contractor on the project and is expected to complete the final phases by this summer. The overall project is about 80 percent completed with work to continue after the graduation ceremony to finish the offices and other areas in the event center as well as the press box at the football stadium.

Superintendent Dr. Rickie Harris of the West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District stated G&G Enterprises has exceeded all his expectations for the new center. "It is looking amazing! It is what I envisioned when we started the process talking to the board of school trustees about going out for the bond, when we presented it to the bond committee, and what we tried to tell the public when we went out for the bond. Our goal was to give the taxpayers what we told them we would give them and then some. I think we did that," Harris replied.

The first event in the event center being the graduation ceremony was what drove the whole project. Dr. Harris explained, "As a district we had been struggling with having to go outside to do graduation. When the weather is good it's fine, but the last week of May and the first week of June I'm a meteorologist having to watch the sky and we have been forced inside. I've been here eight years and we've had to come inside many times to hold graduation because of the weather."

In addition to building the beautiful new facility G&G Enterprises made a generous donation of one million dollars to the West Orange-Cove CISD. The school district's board of trustees has in turn granted G&G Enterprises exclusive naming rights to the newly constructed center for the next ten years.

Dr. Harris responded to the million dollar donation from G&G Enterprises. "We are thrilled to receive this substantial donation from G&G Enterprises. We are grateful for G&G's commitment to investing in education and fostering community development," Harris indicated.

Executives with G&G will announce the official name of the event center at a later date. Chief Operating Officer Colin Garrett of G&G Enterprises is a 1994 alum of West Orange-Stark High School. "We are honored to collaborate with West Orange-Cove CISD on this significant initiative. We believe in the power of education and its ability to transform lives. By investing in the West Orange-Cove Event Center, we hope to create a lasting impact that extends far beyond its walls," Garrett said.

Natasha Garrett, CEO of G&G, added, "Colin and I are excited to be a part of the legacy of WOS, and we look forward to unveiling the official name and witnessing the positive influence this center will have on the community."

The West Orange-Cove Event Center will serve as a hub for various school and community activities. The center will provide a platform for diverse events such as sports competitions, performances, community gatherings, and educational programs according to the school district.

The office of West Orange-Cove Athletic Director Hiawatha Hickman will be moved to the first floor of the event center. Likewise, Athletic Secretary Thereze Sichko will have her office where tickets will be sold for various sporting events especially West Orange-Stark Mustang football games moved adjacent to Coach Hickman's office in the center.

Across the corridor from those offices will be the Wall of Honor. This will be a special display to recognize West Orange-Stark graduates that have gone on to greater fame following their days as a Mustang.

The new complex will house separate offices for both girls and boys basketball coaches and for the girls volleyball coach. The Mustangs and the Lady Mustangs in basketball and volleyball will play their home games in the West Orange-Cove Event Center with spacious new locker rooms being completed in it for each of the teams.

As the name implies the West Orange-Cove Event Center will host a myriad of activities in its spacious venue. "This is an ideal place for graduation, you don't have to sit outside in ninety degree heat and sweat or worry about the weather. You're inside an air-conditioned building that has enough seats to handle events like graduation. I could see us having college graduations in here, we're hoping to have concerts, banquets. We hope to have an event planner on staff to attract more events to this center and let people use it in the community," Coach Hickman who helped with the development of the event center advised.

The arena itself has a capacity of 1,750 permanent seats with areas created for disabled spectators to watch any event held and wheel chair ramps to make it more accessible. The upper concourse area can allow for an additional 300 temporary seats or folding chairs to be added which was done for the graduation ceremony.

An elevator has been installed in the back of the event center to assist getting equipment or spectators that need it upstairs. The elevator is connected to the new press box at Dan R. Hooks Stadium to make it easier to get up there for Mustang football games.

Athletic events will be a major part of the new facility. In addition to the home games for West Orange-Stark teams there will probably be other teams wanting to use the event center.

Hickman predicted, "I'm sure we will host quite a few tournaments. We'll probably host quite a few playoff basketball games and volleyball games. One of my goals is to try to get the regional basketball tournament either the boys or the girls to be played here. This place could handle it sufficiently with people coming in and traveling here to see this excellent facility and there's not a bad seat in the house."

The inside of the West Orange-Cove Event Center is painted in classic Mustang blue like the school's jerseys have been for decades. All the permanent seats are a matching blue as well.

Possibly the first thing spectators will notice when entering the arena is the big cube shaped four-sided scoreboard jumbotron hanging from the ceiling. "The screens are each 22 by 16 feet and can be seen from everywhere in the building. We wanted fans to be able to see the game and what's going on at all times," Hickman pointed out.

The big screens will allow personnel operating the jumbotron to add in game stats and live video feeds using the district's new software. There are also two auxiliary video boards at floor level one on each end of the arena.

A sound booth is located near the upper concourse to handle all the technology used in covering an event. Hickman praised, "The technology is unbelievable. When it comes to the sound we have four 20-inch subwoofers that we added, and with sixteen different speakers the sound is unbelievable."

LED lights have been installed in the building. The lights like those in the football stadium can strobe and change colors for different events.

For the spectators' convenience there are two large concession areas located on opposite ends of the upper concourse. The locations of the concessions means a fan does not need to leave the arena to get a bite to eat or a refreshing drink and can still watch the action on the court itself or see it on the big jumbotron. There are multiple restrooms for female and male spectators.

A mural is decorating one of the walls at the new West Orange-Cove Event Center

The basketball hard court has not been installed yet but will be forth coming when the construction reboots in the coming weeks. When the court is finished carpet tiles can be laid over it like was done during the graduation ceremony for events that need a stage mounted and floor seating like a church service or a concert type event making the West Orange-Cove Event Center more than just a big fancy gym.

Superintendent Dr. Harris believes the West Orange-Cove Event Center will be a benefit to the school district and the greater Orange community. "I think it has met the needs and reached the idea we ventured for our community. Our goal was to have something our community would be proud of and for us to be able to go out for state events like the regional basketball tournament because we have the facility that can hold it. I think it will bring notoriety to our community, great economic boom to our city if we can get all those people to our city to stay in our hotels and eat our food, and that's why we built this facility like this," Dr. Harris concluded.


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