Once the extent of repairs is known, the district and school staff can make plans for the upcoming football season. Choctaw’s schedule includes a Kickoff Classic to begin the season and its first home game is Sept. 6 against Gulf Breeze.

FORT WALTON BEACH — The harsh Gulf Coast climate has created unsafe conditions at the aging Joe Etheredge Stadium at Choctawhatchee High School, resulting in the closure of the entire field.

Engineers from Schmidt’s Consulting Group are assessing the 52-year-old structure and developing a plan to address needed repairs by the end of the week, said Steve Horton, an Okaloosa County School District assistant superintendent.

A Schmidt engineer said the Gulf air is “attacking” the concrete. Horton said work will begin immediately in hopes of allowing the Choctaw Indians football team to play home games this season.

“I couldn’t say yet with certainty if we will have home games at Etheridge Stadium this year,” Horton said. “We definitely want Choctaw to play home games there this year.”

Once the extent of repairs is known, the district and school staff can make plans for the upcoming football season. Choctaw’s schedule includes a Kickoff Classic to begin the season and its first home game is Sept. 6 against Gulf Breeze.

Both the home field side and visitor side stands appear to need repairs. Additionally, the press box and bathrooms on both sides may need renovations.

“We’re not abandoning Choctaw, we’re just not sure of a timeline on repairs,” Horton told school board members.

Two years ago, the visitor side bleachers underwent remediation after dropping several inches.

Horton said they would not let anyone onto the field until repairs are done. Additionally, season tickets are on hold until a determination is made.

Both Fort Walton Beach and Niceville administrators have reached out to Choctaw and offered their stadiums.

Dr. Lamar White, an Okaloosa school board member, said local schools are aging and a half-cent sales tax that has been under consideration would help to repair the school system’s facilities.

“Bascially, we’re broke,” White said. “We’re not loaded.”

Sion Yu, a senior linebacker for Choctaw, said he looked forward to playing at home in front of the team’s fans.

“Most of have grown up on that field, playing every down of every game together,” Yu said. “Not playing on that field ever again would break my heart.”

Choctaw football coach Greg Thomas said whether the team will play home games this season remains up in the air.

“We have a great Friday night atmosphere,” Thomas said. “It’s always good when you can play at home. If we don't play at the stadium, it will be disappointing but we will move on.”