(SARALAND, Ala.) - Saraland , Alabama. At one time, this town on the edge of I-65 was considered a bedroom community of Mobile. But that image has faded as Saraland has cultured it's own self identity. And that new identity has been heavily influenced by one major event.
Any conversation you might have in Saraland is likely to lead back to one subject in particular. Yes, football of course, but the reason why this stadium is even here. Everyone in Saraland seems to be talking about their schools.
"The school system is the economic engine that drives Saraland," said Saraland school board president Bill Silver. And that engine revved up back in 2006, when Saraland broke away from the Mobile County School system to form it's own separate school district.
"People move here for the school system," said Silver. "Businesses come in here for the school system, and it's just a great partnership with the city."
But it's one thing to decide to be independent. It's another to make it happen. And Saraland did, by investing in the construction of two new schools and the renovation of another.
When it's finished, this old school building will be the new Nelson Adams Campus of Saraland Middle School. Instead of spending $20 million on a brand new building, $5 million here will make it like new.
"We will have all new classrooms with smart boards, the technology will be up to date, all the rest rooms will be completely remodeled and refurbished," said Silver. "The library, the media center, the gym will have a new floor in it, it will be a new building."
And across town, a brand new $15 million elementary school rises up from the earth. It will be ready for students by Fall of 2013.
But it won't be the first new school in the Saraland system.
"Right now the high school is our crown jewel," Silver said, beaming.
It's a crown jewel that opened in 2010 and is home to the Saraland Spartans.
Saraland High School's state of the art, an impressive campus of classrooms and sports complex that has become the center of this community.
"We're busting at the seams," he said. "Our high school was built for 900 students. We suspect this year we'll have 850 students."
It's a sign that Saraland is a place where parents want their children to get an education.
And if the students keep coming, what then? "We'll just keep building," said Silver.