SUMMERVILLE — The upcoming renovations to the John McKissick Field and Memorial Stadium will be one of the first major projects the town, Dorchester County and Dorchester School District 2 are partnering together on.
On March 10, organizers welcomed interested groups to a small groundbreaking ceremony celebrating the start of the $1.2 million renovation to the stadium named for renowned Summerville High football coach John McKissick, who passed away in 2019.
When completed, the field will function as a large event space near the town’s historic downtown area, where organizers envision hosting gatherings including the annual Flowertown Festival and concerts in addition to sporting events.
“I’m just so excited to see these things happen for Summerville,” Mayor Ricky Waring said. “I know that we have a group of people who want to work together.”
Officials said this is one of the first times DD2, the town and the county have joined together on a project of this magnitude. The town is contributing $300,000 to the project, and the county is providing $350,000.
DD2 is slated to manage a lot of the improvement funds for the stadium. Those improvements will include a new turf field, better lighting, bathroom renovations, new landscaping, new gates, a larger parking area, and a statue of McKissick and his wife, Joan.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, the previous grass field had already been dug up.
The push for the renovations started when Summerville High School hired Ian Rafferty as its new head football coach a year ago. When he saw the stadium, Rafferty said he knew improvements would be important to preserve the space.
He teamed up with former Summerville football player and local builder Jimmy Tupper to get the effort going. Tupper said the biggest surprise in the renovation conversation has been the overwhelming support.
“What’s crazy to me is all I had to do was ask,” he said.
Tupper and representatives from Summerville High, DD2, the county and the town all make up the South Magnolia Event Group, which meets regularly to discuss and map out the improvements.
Tupper said in addition to county and town support, the group has also received around $200,000 in donations for the project.
He and others at the groundbreaking ceremony said they’re just proud to do something on this scale in McKissick’s memory.
“It’s going to be unbelievable,” Tupper said.
McKissick led Summerville High’s Green Wave to 10 state championships between 1952 and 2014. One of the team’s most notable accomplishments during his leadership was maintaining a 41-game winning streak (1978-1980).
Purchased by the Summerville Exchange Club in the 1950s, the stadium was named after him in 1987.
During the March 10 ceremony, Joan McKissick was in attendance. She said she remembers when her husband pushed for the stadium.
When McKissick was alive, she said he took care of the grass on the stadium field like it was his own. So the new turf fields are a relief, she said.
“I’m really proud and grateful that they’re doing it,” she said. “I’m sure John is, too.”
In the future, organizers want to add more improvements like a new field house, locker room and bigger video board.
The plan is to have the improved stadium ready by the first football game in August.