ASEF shifts focus to new track, press box

The Alabaster Sports and Entertainment Foundation is under new management, and is shifting its focus from a turf field to a new press box and track at THS. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Alabaster Sports and Entertainment Foundation is taking its emphasis off a proposed turf field for Thompson High School’s Larry Simmons Stadium and instead focusing on projects for several of the school’s sports.

Alabaster resident Tony Grillo, general manager of the UAB Blazers ISP Sports Network, took the helm of the ASEF about a month an a half ago after former president Ched Burton moved to Hoover.

Previously, the ASEF was focused on raising money to install a synthetic turf field at the THS football stadium, but Grillo said the organization recently shifted its focus to more evenly distribute the money the group has already raised.

“A lot of the reason we moved away from the turf field was just due to funding,” said Grillo, a 1991 THS graduate. “We want to help as many sports at THS as we can.”

The organization’s immediate goal is to construct a new press box at the football stadium on what is currently the home-side bleachers. The stadium’s current press box is on the visitors’ bleachers.

“The new press box is something we are looking at doing quickly,” he said. “Right now, I’m not sure what the plans are for the existing press box.”

The organization recently helped the school install a new surface on its basketball court, improve the wrestling locker room and secure a grant to renovate the football field bleachers, fieldhouse and other parts of the stadium.

During the Warriors’ Jan. 14 basketball game against Oak Mountain, ASEF will present $5,000 checks to the THS band and baseball team and a $10,000 check to the school to use to purchase new weight room equipment.

“Our goal is to do anything we can do to improve sports at Thompson High School,” Grillo said. “There are a lot of things that we need right now.”

After building the new press box, the organization will then focus on funding a new track facility directly behind the high school.

“A new track would not only be great for the students, it would benefit the whole community,” he said. “That’s something everyone can use.”

The new track likely will cost about $350,000, and is a more financially feasible project than installing a turf field at the football stadium, Grillo said.

“You are talking about a major project with that turf field,” he said. “Not that a track is an inexpensive project by any means, but it is a more immediate need.

“Thompson’s field looks great right now,” Grillo added. “A turf field may be a long-term goal.”

Because corporate sponsors, such as Kona Ice and Full Moon Barbecue, and other individuals and businesses have already signed on to support ASEF projects, the organization has a good head start on funding the press box and track projects, Grillo said.

“Corporate and individual support is critical to getting these things done,” he said. “You have to have the Alabaster community behind you to be successful. None of this stuff can happen without them.”

To become involved or to donate to ASEF, call Grillo at 910-4369, or visit Alabastersportsfoundation.org.

“We will have donation information on our website,” Grillo said, noting the site is expected to go live by Jan. 17.