By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
Houlka Attendance Center school officials hope to find out today if there is any truth to a rumor that Home Depot will be funding a football stadium for the school’s team.
Prior to Thursday night’s season finale against Tupelo Christian Prep in Okolona, it was said on Miss 98 (97.5 FM) that Houlka was one of two schools in the country selected by Home Depot to receive funding from the home improvement company to build a new stadium.
Will East co-hosted Thursday afternoon’s “Sports Drive” show on Miss 98 when he made the comments about Houlka possibly receiving funding for a new stadium.
Miss 98 broadcast Thursday’s Tupelo Christian Prep-Houlka game from the Okolona High football field.
Houlka has been using the Okolona field as its home field since the Chickasaw County school currently doesn’t have one and cannot afford to build one on its own.
“About a year ago I had heard from somebody who’s with the city of Houlka that someone had applied through a foundation and organization and had gotten approved for either a new stadium or to receive help with a new stadium,” East said on the phone Sunday. “I thought it was common knowledge.
“To come to find out, apparently that may not have been true. I went to Home Depot’s website and I couldn’t find any mention of Houlka, Miss., on there.
“I don’t think it’s true at all, and I hate to have said anything at all. It’s my fault to have said that.”
Several people approached Houlka principal Michael Gillespie at Thursday’s game, asking him if he knew anything about the Home Depot rumor.
What may have escalated the rumor going around the Okolona stadium is the TCPS’ play-by-play announcer’s response when asked if he was willing to make a contribution to Houlka’s fundraising for a stadium. According to East, the TCPS announcer said he had heard that Home Depot was going to assist the Houlka school in building a stadium.
As of Friday afternoon, Gillespie and other school officials had not been contacted by the Home Depot about receiving funding for a new stadium.
“We talked to Miss 98,” Gillespie said on the phone Friday afternoon from his school’s office. “We tried to contact somebody at their station because of that broadcast (rumor), and someone there said they didn’t know anything about it.
“I didn’t hear it (the broadcast) directly myself. I heard everything secondhand.”
Gillespie spent most of Friday on the phone, trying to find out anything he could. The Houlka principal left a voice message with a Home Depot representative who oversees community outreach projects, in addition to contacting Houlka Mayor Jo Higginbotham and the office of Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr.
With no one from Home Depot – both locally and nationally – being able to answer the Houlka school’s inquiry on Friday and the closest Home Depot store to Houlka being in Tupelo, Gillespie was wondering if Tupelo city officials had received word from Home Depot’s corporate offices about a school in Northeast Mississippi being chosen to receive funding for a new stadium.
The Houlka principal still had no luck in finding out the truth. He said hopefully somebody from Home Depot’s corporate office will contact him today.
“You would think that we would be the first to be notified instead of the media,” Gillespie said. “Unfortunately, it may appear that people may have taken it the wrong way, and I’m afraid it may not happen.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or firstname.lastname@example.org