Sunday, March 1, 2009

Braly: Stadium with a Future?

Thomas Braly Jr. was principal of Coffee High School from 1945 until his sudden death in 1963. When he began his tenure at the end of WWII, Florence's largest school was housed in the old Appleby building on Hermitage Drive, now the site of tennis courts. Almost immediately Braly and the Board of Education began plans for a larger, much needed replacement, and Coffee moved to its new plant in the late 1940s while construction on several buildings was still incomplete.

The stadium located off Royal Avenue became the jewel in the school's crown. Known simply as Coffee Stadium, it stood relatively unchanged until Tom Braly's untimely death to a heart attack. Seeking to honor the late educator, the Board changed the name to Tom Braly Jr. Stadium, a designation it partially retains today.

Serving as the home field for what was then called Florence State College, the stadium was already showing wear and tear by 1967. That year a surge of baby boomers and influx of students from the county necessitated the creation of Henry A. Bradshaw High School, adding still a third institution to call Braly its home field.

The Florence Board of Education wisely let the City of Florence take over part of the stadium's upkeep, and Tom Braly Municipal Stadium was born. Now 40 years later, these same entities must decide the fate of Braly stadium in a time of unprecedented economic downturn.

Tomorrow: Does Florence Need a New Stadium?