Putting the pride in Pelham

Published 10:57 am Tuesday, September 11, 2012

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Given the amount of work volunteers with the Panther Pride Project have put in over the past several months, I think it’s only fitting that Pelham High School’s first home game of the season will draw one of the largest crowds of the year.

Every season, the game between the Thompson Warriors and the Pelham Panthers is one of the biggest for both teams. For the past few years, the game has been played in early or mid-October, but a region shift this year bumped the Battle for U.S. 31 to mid-September.

Because Pelham has faced a gauntlet of road games — in either Tuscaloosa or Montgomery — for the first few weeks of the season, the Thompson game will be the Panthers’ first home game of the year.

And when the crowds pack into Ned Bearden Stadium, they will be pleasantly surprised by how good the stadium looks. The Panthers have had some of the best facilities in the Birmingham metro area for several years, but constant use year after year can start to take a toll on any stadium’s appearance.

Realizing this, PHS football mom Leah Hays decided to take an active role in ensuring the stadium was looking top-notch.

While most of us were sleeping during the early morning hours of nearly every Saturday last summer, Hays and a battalion of volunteers were at the stadium doing everything from painting to pressure-washing.

As a result, the front and back of the bleachers are looking as good as new, the landscaping looks immaculate and touches such as paw prints painted on the walkways help to build team spirit.

Soon, these improvements will be joined by a new, much-needed ticket booth at the stadium’s main entrance, which is being constructed through the generosity of donations from the Pelham Athletic Association.

Both the Panthers and the Warriors are looking strong this season, so only time will tell who will be victorious on Sept. 14.

But one thing’s for sure: The game sure will look good.

Neal Wagner is city editor for the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at neal.wagner@shelbycountyreporter.com.