Parent weighs in on sports facility

Local businessman Mark Waddell spoke with the Times-Courier Tuesday and said although he did not attend the workshop or regular meeting of the board of education last week, he was aware of the discussion about a new sports facility.

Waddell, whose son Matthew was a state wrestling multichampion and who has other children in the school system, does not believe waiting to pass another ESPLOST — an education special purpose local option sales tax — in three years is the right route to take.

“When Nick (Weaver, school board member) talked about spending some of this surplus fund for facilities, nobody’s going to want to do that from an administration standpoint because of the ESPLOST,” he said. “But they also don’t have a plan for that money. I’d like to see them build some type of wrestling facility, that’s my point.” Waddell said sharing the Noah Harris Center with the cheerleading squad was adequate up until the last few years.

“It was planned to be a shared facility between wrestling and cheerleading, but when it was built, wrestling didn’t go year-round and they didn’t do competition cheer,” he said. “And now it’s just a cluster. There’s been some arguments and aggravation between the wrestling team and the cheerleading team.”

Waddell said the difference with the wrestling program, unlike other sports where tryouts are utilized, is that it takes “all comers.”

“Seventy-eight cents of every dollar of my (local) taxes goes to the school board ... and I believe in what this program does for young men beyond wrestling,” he said. “I just think that if we spend $3.7 million on a football stadium upgrade and $3.something million on an (agriculture) barn, with the number of kids wrestling serves, I think that they should have some kind of facility.”

Waddell maintained he is “not knocking any of the other kids or programs.”

“But how many other programs — not in Gilmer County, but in north Georgia — have got 17 state championships?” he asked. “And that’s team state championships, not individual championships. Not to mention middle school (wrestling) championships. The facility is way too small for the number of kids served.”

Waddell said he talked to two students in the last week who “would literally have dropped out of school, or been in trouble at some point, that are both in college right now.”

“I attribute it to wrestling, because they have no guidance from home but they loved to wrestle, so they stayed out of trouble and they did their work because of wrestling,” he said. “I’m not saying that’s a singular thing to wrestling, but I see that over and over through the sport. And I’m not knocking the cheerleading program, at all. I think those girls work hard — we’re just out of space.”

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