Public Sees New Stadium Up Close

Pictured is a panoramic view of the Roughrider Athletic Complex with a number of the public sitting in the stands to figure out where they want to buy their season tickets for the upcoming football season on Monday.
Sports Editor

With 45 days until the St. Marys football team’s home opener, the Roughriders Philanthropic Association (RPA) held its open house for Roughriders fans to see the progress of the new stadium that will house the program’s 103rd season of football, ask questions about the stadium and check out where they would like to buy their seats — which go on sale Tuesday.

“I am glad that people are coming out here,” RPA Treasurer Dan Burke said. “They are seeing what has been accomplished and taking a look at where they might want their reserved seats.”

It was a much different sight and sound from the RPA last August.

A year ago at this time, Bruns Construction was just one month into the $3 million project, after closing on a $2 million loan --— but with little funds to pay for it at the time — the RPA had to do an about-face and announce that the stadium would not be ready for the 2018 season and all of this while the St. Marys City Schools District was campaigning for a new earned income tax levy. In the distance, the voices of fans who stayed true to wanting to keep Roughrider football at Skip Baughman Stadium for the foreseeable future — rang louder.

Now one year later, Burke said those voices have quieted down as they see the progress being made on the stadium that will host its first season of Roughrider football in its 103rd year in the program’s history. Both the RPA and school district rode that rocky roller coaster and can see the finish ahead of them.

“You’re never going to change the way people perceive tradition in this town — especially when it comes to football — but again, it was the right decision to make with the school out here, the field and track already being out here,” Burke said. “And I can see so many more advantages from the standpoint of playoff games, I think businesses are going to benefit from it. You hate to see things move away from the downtown area, but with the field at Skip, you were talking about using the field only five nights — maybe six nights with a home playoff game — out of the year.

“I could see the stadium looking like this a year ago … we just hope the public realizes how nice this is and how much better it is going to get when it gets completed.”

With that being said, the stadium — which is completed enough to host a sporting event, as was the case in May for the Western Buckeye League Track and Field Championships — will not be completely finished this fall.

“I wish we were further than we are now,” Burke said. “The home side is going to be completed. Definitely, the restrooms will be completed, no more port-a-pots. The away side probably won’t be completed until next year with concessions and restrooms.

The stands have been finished since mid-July and the stadium will be blacktopped by Bruns Construction in the next couple of days as well as work on the building on the home side that will house a ticket booth, restrooms, concessions and a retail store.

Burke cited the rainy weather in the spring and early summer and the slow amount of donations coming in as reasons to why the stadium will not be completely done this fall — but he was confident that the stadium can be done by next year.

“I am happy with the way things are,” he added.

As for the turnout of the open house, Burke said he was pleased with the number of people that attended. Burke added that he has seen a spike in 500 Club members in the last couple of days, estimating that the RPA has seen about 20 new members.

“I think the No. 1 thing are the stands,” he said. “They love the stands, they love the width of the isles and people can get through without having to stand up … that has probably been the biggest thing.”

Burke added that he believed people were surprised at the view they were getting of the field from the stands. One of the main concerns from fans was making it harder to see the game with a 10-lane track on the field.

“I don’t think there is a bad seat in the house,” he added.

For the full story, see Tuesday's print edition of The Evening Leader.