(Posted March 10, 2020)
By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer
A new “ROC,” funded entirely through private donations, will bring a year-round facility to the West Jefferson high/middle school complex, affording students the opportunity to continue practicing during inclement weather.
The Roughrider Optimization Center (ROC)—a 120×160-foot open-span steel building to be located between the high school baseball and softball fields—will provide practice space for athletic teams and the marching band. Any school program or project that needs a large open area, such as a science demonstration, can benefit from the ROC, as well, said project organizer Richard Dickerson.
During a March 9 presentation to the Jefferson Local school board, Dickerson explained that no school district funds will be used to build the facility, which is rated at a maximum capacity of 200 people. Commitments of more than $300,000 have already been received, and all donations are being handled through the West Jefferson Athletic Boosters Association.
“This project is great for our kids,” said Superintendent William Mullett.
Dickerson got involved in the project for a couple of different reasons. He served as an assistant baseball coach, and it was through that experience that he realized the need for a facility like the ROC. Additionally, he is appreciative of the education his children received at West Jefferson High School. His son is an engineer; his daughter is an architect.
“As a family, we decided to give back to the schools and make a donation for this project,” said Dickerson, who then described the costs and logistics involved in practicing at an off-site facility like the Bo Jackson Elite Sports Development in Hilliard.
“Wouldn’t it be great to have something here of a similar size? To provide a place for our students for activities that require a large open area sheltered from the elements?” he said.
According to Dickerson, a turf-type field marked for different sports will cover the floor of the ROC. The facility will be heated, illuminated with energy-efficient lighting, and protected by a fire suppression system. If all goes according to plan, construction will start in early April and finish in October.
“I am very proud to be a part of this project,” Dickerson stated.
West Jefferson Athletic Director Mitch Dalton told school board members the ROC project will help immensely. Spring teams, such as baseball and track, sometimes practice in the rain or are transported to off-campus practice locations, impacting the district in additional fees and transportation costs.
“Down the road, this district–even with the size we are–will need additional space, and (the ROC) is a breath of fresh air,” Dalton said.