The Early Longhorns played football at McDonald Field for decades, utilizing the small locker room facilities at the field’s north end. The park has gone quiet since the 2007 completion of Longhorn Stadium, but a revitalization project is beginning to reshape the location — and creating questions about the future of the vacant locker rooms.
On Tuesday during the Early city council’s regular meeting, city administrator Tony Aaron brought the question before the group. The locker rooms don’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and would require a sizable investment to renovate for any use.
Aaron said the building could be demolished, leaving a space for a new park pavilion. But the council ultimately decided to hold off on a decision pending further review.
Now, the city is seeking feedback from the community on how best to utilize the locker room space.
Councilman B.J. McCullough, who served for decades as an administrator in Early ISD and helped build the locker rooms, said the structure holds sentimental value for generations of Longhorns who grew up using the building.
“It was a necessary project because the two teams that were playing there at McDonald Field would have to meet at the school building in order to dress,” McCullough said. “A good many people were involved in the production and construction of it.
“I was in and out of it as an educator and administrator. I even was assistant coach at one time,” he said. “It’s one of those things where I have a problem tearing things down if we can make them work. Perhaps that one could be made into a pavilion — save the roof, if nothing else.”
Though the roof is still sound, it is supported by the rooms’ outer walls and would be tricky to maintain without the lower structure. Currently the locker rooms are being used to store Christmas decorations. They have tall concrete dividers inside them with a handful of shower heads, but are otherwise open and empty.
A concession and restroom structure sits directly beside the locker rooms, which Aaron said will likely be preserved and renovated. The city purchased McDonald Park for $40,000 last fiscal year with the intent to turn it into a multiuse recreational facility, a process now underway.
“We’ve been looking at [the locker rooms] for the whole time that we’ve had the property,” Aaron said, “just trying to figure out if there’s something we can salvage out of it that can keep the historical significance for the City of Early and the school district.”
He said there are many factors that led him to suggest demolition. “It’s not ADA compliant,” Aaron said. “You’ve got some issues there if you wanted to use it as a meeting space or a place for the public to go. If you wanted to make a pavilion out of it and save the [foundation], it might be more cost-effective to just build a structure rather than try to repurpose one.
“The idea of bringing it before the council was to start getting that discussion going with the public,” Aaron said.
Because the space is separated into two smaller rooms, opening up the structure into a meeting space would necessitate the removal of a load-bearing wall. “And then if you just kept it with two separate rooms, you’ve got shower issues and shower stalls,” Aaron said.
Aaron said the city will create a survey for the community, and that locals can also share suggestions for the locker rooms’ fate through social media or by calling city hall.
“We’re just looking for comments and feedback for realistic, fiscally responsible suggestions for what people think we should do with this place,” he said.
McDonald Park is installing light fixtures, re-paving its track and adding sand volleyball and basketball courts as part of its renovation process.