A change is coming to Sidney Lanier.
With new weight room equipment being installed last week, Lanier completed the first step in its estimated $100,000 athletic renovations. In addition to the weight room, the Poets hope to renovate the basketball gym and install an indoor football practice facility.
For football coach and athletic director C.J. Harris, a Lanier graduate, the change was a long time coming.
“I can recall coming in my sophomore year at Lanier here and what I saw was basically the same thing I saw from Day 1 when I accepted the job here. The same weights, a lot of things broken, a lot of things patched up,” Harris said. “That was basically the turning point when I (was an assistant at) Prattville, the weight room. It’s impossible to win games if you’re not in the weight room. At most of your big-time colleges, getting in the weight room is the difference in teams being successful.”
The estimated $100,000 price tag will be paid by donations from community members, alumni and advertisements, and Lanier is still in the fund raising process.
City councilman David Burkette intends to donate $20,000 total, with $15,000 coming from the city council and $5,000 coming from personal funds. Burkette is a former Lanier student, coach and teacher. In addition to serving on the city council, he is the assistant principal at Bellingrath middle school, which teaches mostly students that are zoned for Lanier.
“I was a student at Lanier at one point, and I also taught driver’s education for 11 years over there at Lanier, so I have a vested interest as far as taking care of our own,” Burkette said. “I could only say, ‘Wow,’ (when I saw the initial plans). Because of all of the hard work by Dr. (Antonio) Williams, their principal, and the outstanding leadership that they have at athletic director with coach Harris, I just wanted to be a part of it.”
The facilities are not just for football, but for all sports. And while the estimated $100,000 isn’t going to school supplies or text books, Harris thinks the changes will also benefit the Poets academically.
“Athletics are what get a lot of kids where they want to be in life. You can look at almost anyone who’s successful, they had some type of athletic background,” Harris said. “There’s so many things going on in the city of Montgomery right now, and not a lot of positive things going on. I think right now athletics as a whole for the city of Montgomery is what keeps a lot of kids out of trouble, and keeps them positively motivated and helps gets kids off to college. Athletics are what keeps kids doing the right thing.”
So far, 10 sets of weight racks, weights and medicine balls have been purchased totaling $24,991.
Lanier hopes to renovate the basketball gym and install an indoor football facility, but these plans have not been approved yet.
The estimated cost for the new basketball gym floor, refinishing the bleachers and replacing backboards and rims is $20,000.
“These are small minor things that have basically turned to major things over the years. You’re talking about a gym floor that hasn’t been done since I was here playing and when we won the state championship back in 2001,” Harris said. “Me being a Poet, I want what’s best for Lanier. I just want Lanier to say we have some of the best facilities that any school has in the state of Alabama.
“A lot of people don’t know, at one time Lanier was the top school to be at in the state of Alabama. I just want things to get back to that. They had to the top facilities, the best equipment, and with that came championships.”
Lanier’s biggest aspirations are with the indoor football facility, making it the top athletic facility in the city and rivaling nearby Prattville’s indoor facility.
Pending approval, the old basketball gym, in the neighboring building of the current gym, will feature a 35-yard by 20-yard turf field costing an estimated $30,000. The 10 weight sets, along with 10 additional sets that hope to be purchased, will run along the sidelines. Then hopes for the current weight room are be turned into a player’s lounge and coaches’ offices.
Harris said completing the indoor facility could take up to three years.
“I was always told, whenever you come into a situation, you always leave it better than what you received it. I felt that if I didn’t make any other changes around here, I needed to make a change in the weight room,” Harris said. “This is basically my gift back to Lanier. I’m a graduate, former athlete, everybody wants their school to be one of the best. This is my gift back to Lanier to make sure for years to come that the weight room is the main focus.”