A large crowd of alumni, elected officials, representatives of the school system, students, coaches, teachers, and members of the community gathered to mark the occasion.
William “Bear” Stephenson of Stephenson Realty and Auction Company emceed the event and welcomed visitors.
“In Psalms 118:24, the psalmist penned these words that I think are very appropriate for today: ‘This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.’ This is a special day in the life of Clinton High School and the lives of so many people who have made this day possible,” he said.
“This is something that’s going to be here long after a lot of us have departed from the scene. There’s a legacy being left,” Stephenson said.
The first speaker was Brad Collette, athletic director at CHS.
“There’s a couple of people that need to be thanked that got this [project] started a long ways back and that’s [former CHS A.D.] Dan Jenkins and [CHS Assist. A.D.] Teddy Phillips. I know Andy McKamey is now on our school board but he was also a big part of it. They started this vision,” Collette said.
He said when he started as AD one of the first people he met with concerning the building was Wimp Shoopman. A small committee was formed consisting of himself, Shoopman, Jeff Little, John Agee, E.T. Stamey, Darren Light, and Tim Beatty.
“We met for several nights for several hours. You were in that room with us when we were figuring out what direction to go. I don’t want to leave those folks out. They were very important on the front end and help guide me to where we’re at now,” Collette said.
He also wanted to thank Dr. Tim Parrot, Director of Anderson County Schools, and Dr. Caleb Tipton, Principal of CHS.
“I can’t leave out our donors. Anyone who has donated one dollar to hundreds of thousands of dollars, thank you for the support and for every penny. Without you, this is not possible,” Collette said.
He added a special thank you to Stamey.
“He’s helped me tremendously by setting up meetings and getting out with people I didn’t even know and getting us in front of them to get their help. One of those people is Mr. Joe Hollingsworth. I want to thank Mr. Hollingsworth, his family, and his staff. They have been tremendous through this whole thing and we owe him for putting a finishing touch on this thing,” Collette said.
“This is destined to be one of the finest, if not the finest facilities of its kind, in Tennessee,” said Hollingsworth.
“It’s about you,” he said pointing to the CHS students assembled for the ceremony.
Hollingsworth said those who worked to make the project a reality was a group of positive people.
“Is the power of positive thinking or the determination of a direction? Is it a commitment that binds? Maybe it’s the verbalization of an intention. Maybe it’s all of those things,” he said.
“This group started this project and they have not looked back. They’ve allowed our team to help facilitate this project. I’ve got to say we’re very honored to be part of that process,” Hollingsworth said.
“Some would say it doesn’t make a lot of difference. I was here it did, 50 years ago. But I would say it makes a huge difference, not to just the students but to the community. It’s a pride in knowing we came together, recognized the need, and accomplished this job,” he said.
Hollingsworth said the building will give CHS something to get excited about – success to build upon.
“Maryville High School has a record of winning unsurpassed in the state. The City of Maryville and Blount County have greatly benefited from the continuous positive articles about the success of their program. I would like to challenge the coach and everybody here commit to running a football program that will make us benefit like the City of Maryville has, that we can be proud of. In fact, we would like to beat Maryville,” he said.
“There are several projects in town that are like this facility. They’re talked about and they’re needed but we just aren’t doing them. We would like for this [project] to be the role model for some of those facilities and ideas to come to fruition too,” Hollingsworth said.
He noted he started working with the county on the Junior Achievement Building and later with the renovation of the gymnasium at Clinton Middle School.
“This [facility] will be cutting edge. You’re going to love it. The people here can make the difference. We can shove these other projects forward. We need the city council and the county commission to help lead the way because to not do it is disappointing our heritage. We need to step up. Clinton High School is too great to dream small dreams,” Hollingsworth said.
Tipton also addressed those gathered.
“You learn very quickly in life if you want to be somebody and you want to make something of yourself, you learn how to say ‘please’ and you learn how to say ‘thank you.’ This is a historic day for Clinton High School and I don’t that’s hyperbole. I want to echo Brad in thanking the community, the sponsors, and donors that have brought an incredible vision that much closer to becoming a reality,” he said.
“Countless people have given of their finances, of their skills, and of their time to make this happen. In a few short months your gifts will impact the lives of countless students for years to come and we cannot thank you enough for that,” Tipton said.
He also expressed his gratitude to the Anderson County School Board, the Anderson County Commission, the City of Clinton, Clinton City Council, members of the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce, and Dr. Parrott as well as the school system central office.
“Thank you for your service to this community and its children. This was a big dream but it was a dream we got behind because we believe our staff and our students deserve the very best,” Tipton said.
“It’s a great day for Anderson County Schools, Clinton High School, and the whole Dragon Nation. It’s just an awesome project and there’s not going to be another one like it in the State of Tennessee,” said Parrott.
“It’s something we can be proud of but also it’s a place at CHS where our student athletes can grow. To be a successful adult you have to be a well-rounded student and the athletic programs in Anderson County Schools and Clinton High School take the students farther than they ever thought they could go and it will do more for them down the road than they ever thought possible,” he said.
“We need to give our students all of the tools we can for them to be successful. For many years this was just a dream but it started to take shape when the board of education and the county commission gave the first $200,000 to make this a reality,” Parrott said.
He too expressed gratitude to everyone who hand a hand in helping bring the project to fruition.
“This plan that once seemed larger than was handed to Brad Collette, Caleb Tipton, and E.T. Stamey. It now has a secure future thanks to the amazing financial support of so many businesses, alumni, members of the community, and the City of Clinton and the Clinton City Council. Without all of their support, this would still be a plan,” Parrott said.
“In a meeting we had about this project early last year, Joe Hollingsworth said, ‘Let’s do this thing.’ If you’ve ever been around Joe, when he says that, he means that. So many times when we hit an obstacle, Joe would say, ‘We can handle that. Let’s move forward.’ He put this project on his back and we started climbing the hill to get it done. We’re not at the top of this hill but we can look over the mountain and see the valley below,” he said.
Head football coach Randy McKamey also spoke at the ceremony.
“I stand not as a coach but as one of the alumni and a teacher. I’d like to thank the donors as was mentioned earlier. From a Sunday School class that donated $127 to people who have donated a quarter of a million dollars, it all adds up. I am personally thankful for that. I’m excited that I’ll get to influence at least 100 students – not athletes – just students each day in this building teaching P.E. and health and wellness,” he said.
McKamey also wanted to recognize Hollingsworth for his long-standing commitment to CHS.
“It may seem very trivial but it goes to show you the importance of someone who believes in you. When I played football here [CHS] if you wore your jersey to Git-N-Go Market, you got a free soft drink on the day of your game. In 1986, ’87, and ’88, the first thing I wanted to do when I got out of class was go get my free soft drink. The thought he cared in 1986, to give us something free, I just want to take a minute to say thank you,” he said.
Sgt. Tim Kumes, CHS Instructor of JROTC and cross country coach, was the final speaker of the day.
“We have leaders with vision. And those leaders bring people and resources together to make things happen. That’s what this group of people have done,” he said.
“The heartbeat of this school is standing right here,” Kumes said, gesturing to the students gathered for the ceremony. “Those heartbeats are everything to this community and you have to people who believe in this community, this school, and an outcome,” he said.
“If you want this community to be good you have to keep giving to these kids and we’re doing that today,” Kumes said.
Following the ceremony, Stamey downplayed his role in helping with the project.
“When we started this it was a daunting task but it was the alumni who didn’t care if we were 0-10 or 10-0. They wanted to do something for Clinton High School. And I called on a couple of the alumni I went to school with and they gave a sizeable donation and it just went from there and that’s where we are today. The alumni started this whole thing,” he said.
Refreshments and drinks were provided by Perkadeli.
The building is expected to be finished in August, before the start of football season.