Gulf Coast rebuilding, returning to athletic facilities

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Part of growing as a team is going through and overcoming adversity together.

We're all on the same team after Hurricane Michael.

Thanks to the team of facilities managers at Gulf Coast State College (led by Jim McDougal and Arnold Varner) and Belfor disaster relief, the school and its athletic complexes are looking better and their sports teams are feeling a little more comfortable.

Frazier Field is in a state of organized chaos. Debris from fences, canopies, and wrecked batting cages have been corralled to the side.
Despite the damage, the mound has been fixed and the field actually has new Ryegrass. Players are back to training, albeit with a modified routine.

"The playing surface is pretty good. Our grounds crew has done a lot of work out here," baseball head coach and athletic director Mike Kandler said. "The Belfor people came in and did it so I know at one point they had about 450 employees. They kind of come in and take over and do things, so they've gotten a heck of a lot of work done. There's more to do, but those guys have really worked hard along with our facilities people here on campus."

Indoors, the situation is far from ideal. The pool and weight room had to be gutted.

Insurance covers most of that though. The important thing is that everyone is okay.

"The challenge is if you start worrying about what you don't have," Kandler added. "Obviously we don't have batting cages out here right now. We don't have a backstop. What we try to do is focus on what we do have. We have a field and we've been able to get some stuff done. If we're not good, it's not going to be because Hurricane Michael."

The Gulf Coast basketball teams certainly haven't let Hurricane Michael stop them from being good this season, although water damage did keep the Commodores off the Harrison Field House Floor for more than a month.

The men's team, off to a 7-3 start, practiced primarily at Vernon High School while the third ranked women (7-1) split time between, Walton, South Walton, and Freeport.

Upon reopening the home gym to the public for last Tuesday's home opener, the Lady 'Dores beat LB Wallace 105-35...they're settling in just fine.

"This is our house even though it's a bit disrupted and doesn't quite look the same, or have the same ceilings or the same floors," head coach Roonie Scovel said. "Our equipment is not in the back of your car or trunk and you're trying to figure out where to store it. I was doing the laundry at my condo the whole time."

But then, immediately after the storm, and now, priorities and perspectives have been altered. Both teams are still seeking success on the floor, but the experience of Michael has left them grittier and more grateful off it.

"If you look around the campus, the campus is a work in progress and it's not going to be a quick fix. It's going to be a long haul," Scovel added. "I think the thing I keep saying here lately is: 'well, it's getting old.' But even as I say that, I'm still so thankful that we are back in our gym. We are back on our floor. We are back in our own house, even though the house doesn't look the same. We're under our roof and so many people in this Panhandle don't have that convenience."

The sentiment is echoed by men's head coach Jay Powell.

"You really have to be always moving forward and trying to get better. In reality, as people bring up the storm and the aftermath--the travel, getting to practice and back--there were some things like that that had to be worked out. We've grown. We've gotten better. We've figured things out. We're competing at a higher level, moving in the right direction."

And getting through it together as one team.

"I think challenge is the right word," Kandler concluded. "That's what athletics is about. It's about being challenged and seeing how you do with it."