By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Lori Sapp was ready to give up.
In fact, in many ways, she already had.
Or, at least, she admits that she had reached a point of exhaustion.
Before completely letting go, though, the president of the Southeast Pirates Athletic Community Endeavor (S.P.A.C.E.) crafted one final social-media post to the community that put the non-profit organization in a position to move in two different directions.
“As an organization, we never lost site of our ultimate goal to build an all-weather track, but when COVID hit, we lost some key members and some momentum. Once COVID cleared, I was tired, and we did not have the same people with us and the interest seemed to be fading,” Sapp said. “I put it out on our Facebook page that I was going to hold a meeting and requested anyone that was actually interested to come or I was going to seriously consider shutting down S.P.A.C.E.”
That was in the Spring of 2021.
Now, two years later, in the spring of 2023, not only has S.P.A.C.E. found a new energy and focused vision, but they are also celebrating as Southeast High School officially broke ground for its all-weather track last week.
An athletic facility that was a long time in the making. Nearly 15 years to be exact.
While S.P.A.C.E. was a key player in the all-weather track, steadfastly, the school district had set aside half of the project’s funding a couple of years prior and ultimately the district — as led by the administration and Board of Education — partnered with S.P.A.C.E. to equally fund the Pirates’ new $500,000 track and field home.
That home will include a six-lane track that is expected to be completed by the fall and before the high school football team’s first home game on Aug. 25 against Mathews in Week 2.
“It is a very exciting time for Southeast, and I think we are all excited for the students,” Sapp said. “It is a huge step for the district to come into the new age with a real all-weather track. It is going to make a huge difference.”
Southeast athletic director Patrick Youel said that the timeline indicates that the Pirates will have the opportunity to host a home track and field meet for the 2024 season.
The excitement will not be felt solely by the track and field programs, but throughout the community and district.
“We are tremendously excited to get the track put in and complete a project that was long overdue. We know it is going to have a huge impact for the school, and we could not have gotten this done without S.P.A.C.E.” Southeast Superintendent Bob Dunn said.
In addition to its obvious usage through the athletic department, Dunn said that the school is planning to launch some health and wellness clubs throughout the district, while also allowing the track to be available to use by staff and community members.
Dunn was also quick to appreciatively point out the volunteer help by community members Ian Shaw and Gary Smith, whose construction backgrounds have helped in time, equipment and expertise.
“The excitement to see the construction last Thursday was incredible,” Youel said. “It finally felt real. All of the hard work of so many people in our S.P.A.C.E. group was finally realized and the community is so thankful for Lori Sapp and all of the members of S.PA.C.E. and our Board of Education and Bob Dunn for making this project a reality.”
Youel also said that the track is just one phase of an overall stadium-renovation project.
“There are multiple phases to the project and those include a new concession stand, new entryway with a new ticket booth, new storage areas and other things that S.P.A.C.E. had planned,” Youel said. “Again, this project is huge for our school district, our student-athletes and our community. It is an awesome time and it is going to be incredible. We are all so thankful and excited.”
In addition to Sapp, the S.P.A.C.E. board of directors includes vice president Jen Thames, secretary Amanda Reed and treasurer Mary Tarka.
Great article Tom thank you very much for bringing this information to the community 🙂