Earlier this month, during the Peach Belt Conference's soccer semifinals and finals, players sweated out hard-fought games on Blanchard Woods Park's fields.
Then, they had to make it through a bus ride to Patriots Park before taking a refreshing shower.
Soon, this scenario will be a thing of the past.
The planned construction of two on-site locker rooms at Blanchard Woods Park took another step forward last week, as Columbia County officials reviewed bids from contractors and commissioners accepted the price from the lowest bidder.
Ammar Construction Company Inc., of Evans, was awarded the project with a bid of $394,700.
A 2007 bond for capital improvements at Blanchard Woods Park will contribute $124,700, while the remaining $270,000 will come from the 2006-10 1-percent sales tax.
"This will definitely enhance their experience," Barry Smith, division director of county Community and Leisure Services, said of teams competing at the park.
"Instead of getting on the bus not showered, they'll be getting on the bus showered. It's an amenity that a lot of traveling teams like."
Smith said construction likely will start in January. The target date for completion is July 11.
Initially, the proposal submitted to the Columbia County Board of Commissioners involved building four locker rooms.
Only two were approved to be built because the cost of building four was estimated at $580,000, Smith said.
He said the two remaining locker rooms from the original plan could be added later if funding becomes available.
With four locker rooms, there would not be a delay between games, said Charlie Beale, manager of the Columbia County Recreation Department.
With two locker rooms, teams will have to get in, get showered, then take their equipment out before team members from the next game can bring their equipment in.
Either way, the construction of locker rooms was paramount to getting top events at Blanchard Woods Park.
"It will increase the value of marketing that park," Beale said of having locker rooms on site.
That marketability factored in when the NCAA selected Blanchard Woods Park as its site for the 2012 and 2013 Division II Soccer National Championships.
Smith said the selection came only after the NCAA was assured that locker rooms would be available by the time the tournament begins in 2012.
Smith hopes garnering the soccer championships is a sign of things to come.
"We're excited about having it," he said.
"We could sure use this locker room facility to attract regional and national soccer and possibly lacrosse events."
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