COMMENTARY: Let's talk Tomato Bowl

NEAL

There is an interesting juxtaposition between the newly renovated Historic Tomato Bowl, funded by $15 million dollar bond, and the new Alto High School complex, which will also be financed by a bond that Alto voters overwhelmingly passed a few days ago.

The Jacksonville Independent School District desperately needed to address the deteriorating conditions of the Tomato Bowl. Had a renovation project not been done the stadium could have been rendered unfit for public assembly; things were just that bad.

Jacksonville voters responded by green lighting the bond by a wide majority and a first-class facility has risen up at the corner of Austin and East Rusk Street.

A source of pride for JISD, and all of Jacksonville, the state-of-the-art Tomato Bowl begun its reign last spring and has been going strong ever since.

A concert by Jacksonville's own Neal McCoy ushered in the new stadium and since that time six Fightin' Indian football games and two high school football playoff games have taken place inside the Tomato Bowl.

Last April, tornadoes destroyed much of Alto High School.

The school district has cobbled together several temporary buildings to serve as class rooms, academic buildings and offices to serve the town's students until a new high school can be built.

Hats off to the Alto voters for giving the thumbs up to a bond of just over $10 million dollars to construct a new and modern Alto High School and gymnasium, which should be completed in August 2021.

It has been said that the Tomato Bowl is the heart of the Jacksonville athletics.

Using that same logic, the new Alto High School will, no doubt, be the heart for the entire town.

I am of the belief that it is time to shift gears in regard to the Tomato Bowl and graduate from the celebration phase of the new facility.

It is time to write the next chapter - actually the new chapter has already begun as playoff football returned to the Tomato Bowl for the first time in 16 years this week.

If the powers that be within JISD approach the Tomato Bowl's future with the same zest and zeal that has been displayed in creating and outfitting the venue, then the sky is the limit as to what the future will be for the Tomato Bowl.

Ironically enough, Alto High School will forever be in the annals of the modern era of the Tomato Bowl as the Yellowjackets are the first Cherokee County varsity football team to win a game in the newly renovated stadium - Alto waxed Cayuga 62-0 Thursday night, earning that distinction.

I don't think Yellowjacket fans will be forgetting that anytime soon.

The one thing that is missing at the new Tomato Bowl is the "real" Flamin' J in the south end zone; the one loved and cherished by Indian fans for many years.

I have heard numerous people from all walks of life attest to this fact all season.

Perhaps JISD officials can consider returning the old Flamin' J for next season?

Here's an idea … as a part of the game experience for the benefactors that provide the financial means for JISD to do so much, invite a representative of the group to light the Flamin' J.

"Ladies and gentlemen, turn your attention to the south end zone where Nathan Jones, Regional President of the Southwest Region of Austin Bank will be lighting the Flamin' J, tonight,” could be said by the public address announcer.

And if a special guest is in attendance, maybe a star player or coach from way back, invite that individual to light the Flamin' J. Pretty cool stuff!

Bottom line, we have to get the old original Flamin' J back. We have toyed with the Indian mystic by removing it, and the south end - the Flamin'J end of the stadium — has not been too kind to the the Tribe thus far.

Jacksonville even lost a game due to a missed call by the officials in that end zone this season.

And, let's not forget that the Tribe went 0-6 at the Tomato Bowl this season.

Perhaps the excitement generated by the spectacle of seeing a true Flamin' J burning moments before kick off would light a fire under the Indians.

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