18 Feb Devil Dog Arena: District celebrates completion of new facility
by Sonja J. Keith
Todd Owens photos
The South Conway County School District officially opened its new Devil Dog Arena, which will serve multiple purposes for athletic events, graduation and community activities.
“The district has received many compliments on Devil Dog Arena from visitors and local stakeholders,” said District Superintendent Shawn Halbrook. “The SCCSD is very thankful to our learning community. The opportunity to be able to invest in our school district facilities for our scholars and community has already started to pay dividends.”
The arena was among several improvements throughout the district made possible when voters approved a 3.9 millage increase in September 2015 to fund a $25 million project. The theme for the millage campaign was “For Our Children, Our School, Our Community & Our Future!”
“Seventy-five percent of the folks voted for it,” said Halbrook. “There’s pretty overwhelming support.”
The biggest project included in the millage program was the new 69,000-square-foot arena. With a capacity to seat more than 2,200, the multi-purpose arena will be used for volleyball and basketball games and large gatherings, like concerts and graduation. There are four scoreboards, one on each corner, with two large video boards.
“The SCCSD desire is that Devil Dog Arena will become a prominent venue for various events. We currently have a Holocaust survivor scheduled to speak to area students in a partnership with UACCM, a concert with comedian Heather Land and the Class A State Basketball Tournament in a partnership with the Wonderview School District. These events bring visitors to our area (Morrilton and Conway County) so they can see the great things happening in our communities. The additional visitors coming to Devil Dog Arena for events help the local economy when they eat, buy gas or go to local retail establishments.”
School officials visited 12 gyms across the state to gather ideas for the arena, including schools in Siloam Springs, Alma, El Dorado, Lake Hamilton, Conway, Cabot and Russellville. “We wanted to make it a great experience for graduation, concerts and athletic events,” Halbrook said, adding that a lot of thought was put into the design for the arena, which is intended to meet the needs of the district for the next 50 to 60 years. “It’s for the district and the community.”
The arena also includes a weight room, locker rooms with private showers, athletic offices and a spirit store where individuals can purchase Devil Dog items. It will be operated by students as part of an entrepreneurship class. For the first time, the cheer and dance teams will also have a dedicated practice room with a locker room.
“We’re trying to give our kids as good as we can,” Halbrook said.
Halbrook also noted that there are special accommodations for the disabled, who he describes as loyal Devil Dog supporters, with first floor access to restrooms and an elevator.
The arena also features a 4,000-square-foot safe room that doubles as a practice gym. Situated between the high school and junior high campuses, it can accommodate 1,400, all junior high and high school students as well as faculty and staff. “We were trying to keep the arena and safe room together,” Halbrook said. “Its purpose is to save lives.”
Halbrook is appreciative of the support that the school system has received from the community that made all the improvements in the district possible. “Morrilton is investing in its future. I want the community to feel good about the investment they are making in their students,” he said. “I’m proud to be from here, live here and raise my family here.”