SEE THE PICTURES: Mustangs enjoying “bells and whistles” of revamped fieldhouse

Published 12:30 am Tuesday, August 16, 2022

WEST ORANGE – The building may be the same, but the West Orange-Stark Athletic Fieldhouse looks like brand new “digs” for all of the athletes and coaches to enjoy.

It was a work in progress since May, but Athletic Director and head football coach Hiawatha Hickman unveiled it to the athletes last Thursday.

“The kids, they were simply blown away, because we kept them out of there for the most part since May,” said Hickman. “They were dancing around and cutting up. It has also sank in then for them all that this is something to feel special about, and that they have to play a big role in helping keep it up nice.”

The Mustangs have completely new lockers. All of them are against the walls, in more of an open style.

The lockers look similar to ones seen across colleges, said Hickman.

“At the bottom of them, they open up and have a stool-like function where you can sit down and get in and out of your jerseys and pads better,” he said. “You still have the big nice space in the middle to put everything and a nice place up to hang helmets and pads and such.”

With all of the lockers against the walls, it opens up the middle of the locker room more and has allowed a huge screen television on the wall to work and a couple big couches where players can sit and watch film.

“It’s a big enough area and big enough screen to where the entire team can sit and watch film and it’s a really good spot for each individual position group to sit down and watch film. It helps us as coaches, too, with more room to work around,” said Hickman. “We’re still doing things the way Mustangs have always done it, just becoming a little more modernized.”

There are new TV screens mounted on walls in the coaches office and on the way out at the back of the fieldhouse. There are cool, brand new chairs with the WO-S logo on them in the coaches office, as well.

One of the coolest new features is the flying WO-S logo mounted in the top of the ceiling in the middle of the fieldhouse that illuminates.

“I saw that kind of thing when I visited Texas and Texas A&M, and their logos were in the ceiling like that, and they lit up, so I thought, that would really be cool if we could get one of those here,” said Hickman. “It really looks great, especially when you dim the lights. It kinda gets everyone fired up. A company from Kountze did that and did a great job.”

For years and years, when people walked into the back of the fieldhouse, they could see all of the former Mustangs that went on to play college football and pictures of them in their college uniforms on that back long wall.

Hickman decided to preserve those in a neat way.

“What we did was that we took all of the photos out of those old frames, scanned them, sent them off to a company and they created an acrylic-type plate and mounted the pictures on those, with their respective schools’ logos on them,” said Hickman. “We want to maintain and show the kids, present and future the great history that West Orange-Stark has. It is an amazing tradition and something to be proud of. We even have our NFL wall in the front of the fieldhouse.”

There are plenty of other bells and whistles, including some great photos turned into posters on the fieldhouse doors and a big one when people enter the big front doors at the front of the fieldhouse.

One photo is of long-time coach Dan Hooks hoisting a State Championship trophy from the 1980s and another of long-time coach Cornel Thompson celebrating with the Mustangs as he was holding up the 2015 State Championship trophy. The big poster shot entering the fieldhouse is the one Orange Leader photographer Mark Pachuca shot of the Mustangs going out for the coin flip for the 2016 State Championship Game. The Mustangs rolled in that game, on their way to a perfect 16-0 campaign.

“We’re always going to honor our great history and Coach Hooks and Coach Thompson were the building blocks and both true legends,” said Hickman. “There is just something about that coin toss photo though, that’s one of the best ones I’ve ever seen. I’ve got that one in a big frame at my house.”