RIVER OAKS — Castleberry High School students and supporters had even more of a reason to roar their Lions pride at their first home football game of the season Friday.That’s because after nearly 60 years, W.O. Barnes Stadium had been almost completely rebuilt and modernized — including a shifting of the playing surface to allow for more sideline space and more seats on the home side.The original stadium, built in 1954 for Irma Marsh Junior High School, held about 1,000 people. As the district grew, sections were added over the years to accommodate more fans. But lately it hadn’t been enough, and student enrollment growth wasn’t expected to plateau until 2020.The renovations make a huge difference, said Castleberry High School sophomore Adriana Maldonado.“It’s so much prettier and cleaner here,” she said. “It was a lot more crowded at football games last year. Now there’s more space, I like that it’s not all cluttered.”The school district was already amid a building boom of sorts. In 2010 voters approved a $34 million bond package to build two replacement schools for aging campuses, renovate three campuses and add security measures. But this project was not part of the bond package. The project was funded using 14 years of savings, with an estimated final cost of about $4 million, Superintendent Gary Jones said.In November, after the last game of the 2012 season, the community gathered for the groundbreaking of the stadium’s “Extreme Makeover.” The improvements included new bleachers; two concession stands; a new paved and brick area around the concessions; an electronic scoreboard; and a brand new sound system.Inside the stadium, the team got new locker rooms and extra sideline space.“I think this stadium is a unique one,” athletic director Lenny Lasher said. “It’s different from others because it’s not extravagant — it fits in with our community and its values.”The main goal of the project was to better accommodate the community, which has a population of about 7,500 people, Lasher said.Fans had seen the stadium before Friday. They filled it with red T-shirts at a dedication ceremony in early August.Other rearrangements included switching the side where home team fans sat, giving them more bleacher space compared to the visiting side. The marching band was given its own section behind one end zone to create more fan space and allow the music to stretch throughout the stadium.Next up: homecoming on Friday against Ponder. What better way to prepare for it last week than by shopping at the two new spirit shops?A band booster spirit shop and athletics booster shop are new additions next to the concession stands. In the past, boosters sold T-shirts, pompoms and more at spirit events through the season.Business was brisk Friday, booster Kim Taylor said.“We sold probably 20 shirts in the first half — we’ve been very busy the whole night,” she said.Taylor, alongside fellow booster and Castleberry High School colleague Susan Stewart, said they’ve been watching the stadium change since they were both students.“Everything is very different. We’ve definitely seen it grow a lot since we were in school, and now with our children,” Taylor said. Both she and Stewart have eighth-grade students at Irma Marsh Junior High School.Homecoming events start Thursday with a parade at the high school, followed by a pep rally on the east side of the stadium, which was named in 1984 for William O. Barnes, a coach, athletic director, vice principal, and principal who had been with the district for 30 years. Then the Lions will try to earn their first victory at the stadium. They lost to Fort Worth Trinity Valley 22-7 last week, despite the efforts of Alex Scallion (16 carries, 72 yards) and Dakota Wright (12 carries, 64 yards).
Taylor Prater, 817-390-7694 Twitter: @taylornprater