FULTONDALE, Ala. (WIAT) — The Fultondale Wildcats will open the football season at their new stadium for the very first time Thursday evening.

This comes after the high school was forced to rebuild all of their facilities that were destroyed in a 2021 tornado.

Head football coach, Keon Handley Sr. said their team was able to play at Tarrant over the last couple of years, but it was never home. He said it was deflating and discouraging for the players.

Since March, Handley said they’ve had the opportunity to practice at the new field and get acclimated to the environment. He said this has been has a huge step in a positive direction for the team and the community.

“The biggest thing has been trying to get kids to understand that they can relax- that they have a place they can call home,” Handley said. “A place that they can be comfortable in, a place that they love that’s their own, you know, that their families are going to come watch them play in every day. A place where the little league park can come play on Saturdays. So, it’s been great for the entire city of Fultondale.”

He said their players are filled with overwhelming happiness and a sense of pride finally getting to take the field at home this evening.

“That process and struggles that they’ve gone through, the adversity that they’ve faced, no one can ever take that away from them and no one can say they haven’t been through anything,” Handley said. “And they have a will to fight because they’ve stayed here and they’ve stood here, and the guys that have stayed here with the program throughout everything, they have a point and a purpose and something to prove and they’re going to prove it.”

Junior football player Dreshaun Wright said he and his teammates faced the unknown together, now coming out stronger together on the other side. He said the team has so much gratitude for those that helped make this new facility possible.

“We’ve been through a lot,” said Wright. “It’s been crazy over the years. We’ve been all over the place. We really couldn’t call nothing our home, but we are home now, so we can really call this our home and get to work.”

There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony at 6:30p.m. for the new stadium ahead of kick off at 7p.m.