Minor Changes Coming This Week

Sports Editor

For the most part, last Friday’s season opener at the new football stadium was greeted by a positive response from fans and community members, but tweaks are still needed to make the Roughrider football experience better for everyone.

“Great,” St. Marys Athletic Director Jim Hollman said when asked what the response of the first game at the new stadium was like. “There were a lot of little things right up until kickoff that were still needing tweaked and there are still questions needing to be answered, but overall, I think it went great.”

Hollman said the two major aspects that will be tweaked are lines at the concession standings and traffic flow after the game. The AD added that the changes won’t be drastic, but should be noticeable.

In last week’s season opener, fans’ main complaints were the line for concession stands, seating and the time it took to leave the game.

Seating will improve with fewer fans, Hollman counted roughly 2,800 tickets sold at last week’s game and probably more than 3,000 people attended, including game day passes that had not been counted. At a St. Marys Rotary Club meeting on Wednesday, Superintendent Bill Ruane said the game drew around 3,500 fans.

Grand Lake Health System Field has a 4,000-seat capacity.

Friday’s game also included an abnormal amount of reunion classes and a number of friends and families of donors who donated to the $3 million stadium and were honored prior to the game as well as other activities that were happening leading up to the game.

Regarding parking and traffic flow, Hollman said the biggest issue was Lot A, the school lot, which can hold about 1,500 cars, had cars parked in the grass because it was so full. Lots B and C cleared out quickly, however, and those lots can hold 650 cars each.

“We had extra people there, other events going there so there was just more than what we thought,” Hollman added.

With the plan of traffic flow still in the works, Hollman added that Lot B will be changed to just reserved parking. The lot west of the stadium was labeled mainly for reserved parking, with general parking available depending on space and event staff parking, but Hollman said that general parking will be removed from that lot.

“We tried to keep it open for general admission parking, but I don’t think it went over as well as we were thinking,” he added.

Director of Public Service and Safety Greg Foxhoven said that fans’ experience with how long it took to leave Shipman Road depended on where fans parked, adding that fans in Lots B and C were the first ones out because they were the first ones of to their cars.

He said he heard that fans’ wait time was between 10 minutes to 45 minutes. Some fans stated that their waits were longer than that.

“Right now, we are going to focus on the flow of traffic on Shipman Drive,” Foxhoven said.

Foxhoven said what he and St. Marys Police Chief Jake Sutton are discussing is finding out if there is a better way for traffic to flow, which they believe there is.

“We don’t know if we have the silver bullet for Friday night, but they are going to try a different approach,” Foxhoven said. “Our hope is that through the next few home games, we can figure out a traffic pattern that is effective in emptying out the lots as quickly as we can.”

Foxhoven said one of the problems that caused the traffic flow issue were vehicles entering onto the campus’ main lot to pick up students from band or from the game so as cars were trying to get out of the lot, there were a handful of cars entering Lot A. With that in mind, Hollman added that he probably won’t know about the plans regarding Lot A until Thursday at the earliest.

Foxhoven added that the only changes in the near future is additional police presence and position officers in different areas than they were last week. Foxhoven said there was a discussion about potentially running traffic in two lanes on Shipman Road, but that more studying would need to be done before going that route.

In regards to concessions, Hollman said that difference will be where fans purchase items so people do not have to stand in line twice. 

“I think we are going to try to sell our ticket items for the grill with Dave [Dave Barbeque],” he said.

Aside from some minor bumps in the road, the experience of the first game played was a positive one.

“Great,” and “awesome’ is some of the words Hollman heard about the stadium. He added that there were fans who parked at the school just to walk down the trail because they liked the feel of the walk.

“They felt like it was a college-level game,” he said. “There were also people in the stands who said, ‘at Skip, you could see the handful from the quarterback to the running back, but then that was about it. Here, you could see the guards pulling and the hole open up on the far side.’ They said it was incredible what you could see.

“The class of ‘62 came and they made a comment that they were glad to see where St. Marys is now. To come back and see where St. Marys is now, they said, ‘this is what these kids need and deserve at this time.’”