RPA Gives Update On Stadium

By: 
JAKE DOWLING
Sports Editor

Progress at the Roughrider Athletic Complex has gained momentum with 106 days remaining until the football home opener.

Rotarian and Roughrider Philanthropic Association (RPA) Treasurer Dan Burke and Rotary President and RPA member Zach Ferrall shared that progress with Rotarians on Wednesday. 

The stadium is inching closer to completion since the ball got rolling June 22 of last year.

“I can’t believe how far we have come in almost one year,” Ferrall said. 

That date is when the RPA closed on a $2 million loan with Minster Bank and Superior Federal Credit Union, which, in essence, began the construction of the stadium days later. Ferrall said as pledges come in, the group is able to take money out on the loan. Pledges, then, act as collateral — the only collateral the RPA has on the loan, according to Ferrall.

“It is a very unique loan, obviously, but the banks have been great to work with from the beginning,” he added. “They have stepped up and they have pledged money to the project anyway. So we are very thankful for them.”

The RPA has raised 80 percent of its $3 million goal — approximately $2.4 million pledged to the project.

“We still have a ways to go,” Burke said. “Sept. 20, that is the first home game, so we have to get everything finished out there by that time. We do not want to go back to port-a-pots, that is the thing the RPA has heard from the community loud and clear that if we are going to do this — move from Skip Baughman Stadium, which believe me, it had its share of controversy. It was definitely the right move and we wanted to do it right.”

Burke also touched on the individual from the farming community who donated $50,000 as a challenge for the community to match earlier this week. He said that he learned Tuesday that someone had matched that $50,000, but encouraged Rotarians that it could still be matched by donating more.

“Those are some of the things we are seeing in this community and it is fantastic,” Burke said. “You wake up some days wondering, ‘are we going to gets this thing done?’ But we will and with the support, we will get there.”

Qualite Sports Lighting installed lights and poles at the stadium in October and crews continued to work on the concessions and bathroom buildings on both sides of the field over the winter, but the home stands is what served as a shot in the arm for the project. 

The 3,500-seat stands from Sightlines Athletic Facilities were installed beginning March 4 and completed March 12 — and that brought in donations from both the St. Marys football and track and field coaching staffs, a $300,000 donation and naming rights to the field by Grand Lake Health Systems and the matching $50,000 donation challenge, as well as other donations and additional 500 Club signees. 

The stands, which can be seen once motorists drive over the hill on U.S. 33 heading west, have a handful of rows of seat backs, but Ferrall added that more seats can be installed — as long as they are funded.

“Obviously, it costs money, but the stands can be retro-fit like that very easily,” he added.

Burke said in Obetz — located just south of Columbus — its stadium, Fortress Obetz, has similar stands to St. Marys and there are three to four feet of row that people can walk across so those sitting do not have to get up to let people by. Either way, the construction of the stands has been a gamechanger for the project.

“There was a couple who wanted to buy the flip seats so they paid a visit to see the stands and they could not believe how nice those stands were and how much room there is,”  Burke said. “And this couple, they were dead set against this project from the get-go. They wanted to keep that stadium at Skip Baughman, but once they took a look at it, it completely changed their minds.

“I think that is the impact that those stands have.”

Burke concluded by saying that soon, the concrete pad will be down so the visitor stands can go up, but weather has impacted that work so far.

“I think once those visitor stands go up, we will see a spike in donations again like we did for when the home stands went up,” Burke said.

The treasurer added that the RPA is keeping its fingers crossed about getting a new scoreboard in time for the football season, but that prospect is still up in the air. ScoreVision would be the maker of a new scoreboard. It would incorporate a video board, which would allow advertising for the school or other businesses. Burke and Ferrall both said that using the old scoreboard from Skip Baughman Stadium is still an option if needed.

With 106 days remaining until the Roughriders’ home opener against Van Wert Sept. 20, work still needs to be done to get the stadium completed. 

The roughly 1,000-seat visitor stands still need to be added, as well as a sound system, the completion of concessions and bathrooms and a scoreboard. A sound system can be installed by Bruns Construction with its new audio/video division it created in December 2017. 

Ferrall added that the walking path is still in the works, but as of right now, it is a future plan. A fieldhouse is still slated to be constructed at the southeast portion of the stadium next to where the shot put area is, but that too is a project for the future.

“We already have existing locker rooms in the stadium, but it could really use expanding,” Ferrall said. “As we have seen from some of our WBL rivals, like Kenton, they have put together a nice fieldhouse for their teams to be able to practice during the winter.

“There are a lot of extra uses for a fieldhouse.”

Despite the momentum in the last few months, the RPA is still looking for donations. 

The 500 Club is a five-year, $3,000 commitment pledge that the RPA has been touted out as a way for families or individuals to donate if they so choose. The donation can be paid $50 monthly, $600 annually or $1,000 for three years. There are 322 total individual and business donors so far. 

The new stadium will have a seating capacity of 4,500 — 1,500 more than what was at Skip Baughman — with 700 to 750 parking spaces that will not be paved this year. Along with the turf field already in place and a 10-lane track, there will be a band storage building, new concessions, team apparel retail store, new walking path from Memorial High School to the stadium, press box, scoreboard, a memorial of Skip Baughman — the longtime Roughriders coach who spent 36 years on the sidelines, winning 272 games and garnered the program’s only three state titles — additional parking spaces, lighting and a fieldhouse for the future.

Other sports will be able to use the stadium aside from football, including hosting the Ohio High School Athletic Association soccer playoffs in possibly both boys and girls, St. Marys track and field — it successfully hosted the Western Buckeye League Track Championship last month — among other tri-meets and possibly postseason meets, possible site for football playoffs, an area for marching band practice and other extracurricular activities. 

“This is more than just about football,” Burke said. “This is about the track kids, band, cheerleaders and it is about the community. We just want what is best for the community.

“When the feasibility study was completed, it just made total sense to put that complex out there because there are many more advantages having that complex out there than on South Street.”