Facility upgrades on drawing board for school athletic sites

Staff Report

Projects to upgrade athletic facilities at the three Iberville Parish high schools will be moving into gear within the next year.

A $6.5 million baseball/softball complex at Plaquemine High School, a $4.5 million gymnasium at White Castle and a $2.5 million football/fieldhouse/weightroom at East Iberville are among the projects on the drawing board.

A baseball/softball complex at Plaquemine High school is among the projects on the drawing board as part of an upgrade of facilities on campuses throughout Iberville Parish.

The facility upgrades are part of a Master Plan the Iberville Parish School System plans to implement over the next few years, focusing on school improvements, campus upgrades and salary increases.

The 2020 expiration of the Shintech Louisiana LLC Plaquemine facility’s 10-year tax break through the Industrial Tax Exemption Program paved the way for the Iberville Parish School System to fund those plans.

White Castle's football stadium

The projects had been in discussion since 2020, but the pandemic and other issues slowed down the plans.

Plans will now move forward on the competition gym for White Castle High School.

“This is going to be a larger gym that what we have in place now,” School Board President Chris Daigle said. “It’s going to be a competition – not an auxiliary gym.”

White Castle High School is the only high school campus in Iberville Parish with only one gymnasium.

It’s also smaller than the gyms at East Iberville and Plaquemine high schools.

For the project at East Iberville, the goal is to have the renderings and draws in place and put it out for bids this year.

WCHS was originally set to have a larger gymnasium when the Iberville Parish School Board approved construction of new schools and athletic facilities for White Castle and East Iberville in 1990.

It also paved the way for a new football stadium on the Plaquemine High School campus, which replaced a facility on Fort Street that dated back to the 1930s.

Those projects were part of a tax millage voters approved in 1988.

But the cost of the gymnasium project at White Castle High School in the early 1990s prompted the school board to ask for a redraw of plans that would reduce the size of the gym.

“They made it smaller, so White Castle has had the smallest gym in the parish,” Daigle said. “East Iberville and White Castle played there a couple of weeks ago, and it was packed.”

The gym seats well under 1,000 spectators.

A gym with a 1,000-seat capacity would be more conducive to the White Castle gymnasium, which has been a high school basketball hotbed for more than 50 years.

“It was just two years ago when we tried to add seating in the WC gym and that’s when we made the push for additional funding,” Daigle said.  

The gymnasium at the new Brusly High School may be the prototype for the next facility, Daigle said.

“We’re looking at a lot of different gyms right now.”

Drawings on WC gym will take at least five months. Daigle said Fusion Architecture APC of Plaquemine hopes to have the drawings rendered by late summer or early fall.

“Because of the campus layout, we would not be able to start the project until after football season,” Daigle said. “All construction vehicles and everything else would become around the back side of the campus.”

The goal is to move forward with a groundbreaking by 2023, he said.

The School Board also hopes to acquire land next to the baseball field to finally bring a softball stadium to the WCHS campus.

The softball team currently plays all of its games in Dorseyville.

For the project at East Iberville, the goal is to have the renderings and draws in place and put it out for bids this year. The target date to begin construction is January 2023, Daigle said.

At Plaquemine High, the School Board plans to build the baseball/softball complex on the field behind Andrew Canova Green Devil Stadium.

The project would also call for demolition of the current Green Devil baseball stadium and use that area as a parking lot for the football stadium.