The new artificial playing surface being installed in Greenway Avenue Stadium will be a good investment. It will be expensive, but we can afford it, and it has to be done. (See: “New turf ... ,” July 5 Times-News, Page 1A.)
Once part of the Fort Hill High School complex, the stadium is now an asset for the entire community. If experience is any indication, the turf will have to be replaced again in another decade or so to ensure the safety of the community’s young people who play on it. So be it.
Grass fields like that once found in Greenway were a source of pride for whatever school, community or pro team owned or played on them, and anyone who has played on a great grass field loved it. It just feels right.
Unfortunately, not every venue is grass-friendly, and that’s because the climate isn’t grass-friendly, least of all ours — particularly during football season.
It once was the case at most football stadiums that the grass playing field was for football only, to be carefully tended and manicured and used only a handful of times a year. That’s no longer the case.
The number of sports and other activities now open to high school students has grown substantially. Greenway’s field is now home to several dozen athletic events from September through December, plus band activities and a variety of practices.
Artificial turf doesn’t have to be fed, watered or mowed. Those can be expensive propositions.
Neither is it subject to soddening by rain and mud. Years ago, before Greenway’s turf was installed, our old friend, the late former Fort Hill High football coach Charlie Lattimer described the field’s pre-game condition as “a (bleep) quagmire.” And it was.
The Allegany County Board of Education considered ways of raising funds for the new turf that for a brief time included the charging of broadcast fees.
It was proposed to charge $50 per game for radio stations and $100 for television stations, but that idea was dropped. Among other things, it would have raised only $1,200 a year.
Radio stations didn’t like it, and neither did some members of the school board, and nothing was said about charging the Times-News or other newspapers for access to the press box.
Various fundraisers have been held, including The Walk a Mile for Ol’ Greenway Fun Run/Walk that raised more than $10,000. A Cruise-In Car Show and dance at Windsor Castle brought in more than $5,000.
Our community has a way of stepping up to help at times when it is needed.
As our Sports Editor Mike Burke wrote in December, such events are “the bake sales of any capital improvement project, but are necessary because they trigger and feed the entire project with many other working parts.”
Burke wrote that “There will be community-involvement events such as these because, as (stadium improvement project) committee member Mark Manges says, ‘Greenway is not just a sporting venue; it is a community venue for all ages.’”
For many years, the venue was called Fort Hill Stadium. Some resisted having the name changed, even though both Fort Hill and Allegany high schools played their home football games there.
The rivalry will continue, and we are reminded of a minor controversy that arose several years ago during reconstruction of the stadium.
A reporter who was new to Cumberland and the Times-News staff didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. We explained to her that she almost had to have grown up here, or at least close by, to appreciate it.
Her story began this way:
“CUMBERLAND — The biggest problem with the Greenway Avenue Stadium plans presented Thursday didn’t have anything to do with the cost or logistics or incoming construction deadlines.
“It had to do with the 70-year-old rivalry between Cumberland’s two city high schools.
“‘How hard would it be to make both (Fort Hill and Allegany) concession stands the same size?’ Allegany High School Principal Mike Calhoun asked architect Brent Feicht.”
The difference in size wasn’t all that great, and it doesn’t matter today which one was bigger, but it was enough to unsettle some people.
It didn’t prove hard at all to make them equal.
The new stadium turf will go that one better.
It will have the names of the two high schools in the end zones — Fort Hill in red in the end zone next to the school and Allegany in blue in the end zone next to the scoreboard.
The new turf and other work that remains to be done will ensure that Greenway remains one of the finest facilities of its type and size anywhere.