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NHS football coach: 'I’m all for a new stadium'

Cary Ashby • Mar 24, 2017 at 9:00 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second part of a four-part series about the possibility of a new stadium in Norwalk.

 

Norwalk football coach Chris MacFarland makes no bones about his stance.

“I’m all for a new stadium,” said the man who has coached the Truckers for eight years.

In fact, if a new facility were possible, MacFarland has a vision for where it should be.

“I want the stadium out back. I want to see it behind our new weight room,” he said, referring to the Reagan All-Sport Complex. “It would be a great fall setting. We have great parking here.”

And similar to a sentiment expressed by Norwalk High School Principal Brad Cooley, MacFarland is proud of the school facilities on Shady Lane Drive. 

“I think we have one of the greatest, if not the greatest, campus in the area,” said the coach, who consistently hears compliments from visitors for basketball and volleyball games and wrestling matches at the NHS gymnasium. 

“People love playing here,” MacFarland added. “I think they would have the same feeling if we had a new stadium.”

How about Whitney Field — where the Truckers play their home football games? Maybe not so much.

“I think we have outgrown Whitney,” MacFarland said.

Josh Schlotterer, NHS director of student activities, said “it would be great” to have a stadium on the school campus. But he knows reality is something far different.

“We are very, very far away from anything happening,” he added. 

 

$3-5 million project

Schlotterer and MacFarland estimate a new stadium — with a track, turf, concession stands and lights — could cost between $3 million and $5 million.

“You’d have a nice stadium (for that price),” Schlotterer added. “You gotta find a big sponsor. You gotta find someone who wants the naming rights.”

The new Perkins High School football stadium received a $225,000 donation from Firelands Regional Medical Center for naming rights, said Dan Bowman, treasurer of Perkins Local Schools.

Bowman said the price tag was $4,416,454.53.

“Some of it was part of the permanent improvement fund,” he said, noting there also was “a laundry list of donors.”

“The project is 100 percent paid. There is no debt on it,” added Bowman, who said there is no separate metering for the cost of water and electricity at the stadium.

When it comes to funding a new stadium in Norwalk, school officials have said the taxpayers shouldn’t be responsible for it and the project should be a donation drive by the athletic boosters. 

“I’m 100 percent behind that,” Schlotterer said. “I don’t think the taxpayers should pay for any of that.” 

MacFarland agrees.

“Let that (new stadium) be the private, booster-related campaign,” the coach said. “Let the boosters go out and get the money.”

MacFarland sees that a proposed building to hold all the elementary grades should be “led by the district” while raising money for a stadium is led by the athletic boosters — but supported by the school system.

 

What about Whitney Field? 

If a new stadium became a reality, Schlotterer and MacFarland agree that St. Paul High School needs to be a partner in whatever happens. The Norwalk Truckers play their home games at Whitney Field on Friday nights while the Flyers play on Saturdays.

MacFarland envisions St. Paul practicing at the new facility in addition to hosting football games there while Whitney Field could be used as a practice field.

The Norwalk coach was asked about the possibility of St. Paul / Norwalk Catholic School buying Whitney from the district.

“That’s something they’d have to decide,” MacFarland said. “If they go a different direction, that’s up to them.”

St. Paul athletic director John Livengood said he “has no report on that.”

“I don’t know if they would want to do that,” he added, referring to the sale of Whitney Field.

Livengood, a 1984 NHS graduate, has been the St. Paul athletic director since 1990. He said there are many great memories at Whitney — both as a player and a coach. Livengood has been the Flyers’ head football coach since 1991.

MacFarland said one of the challenges of continuing to use Whitney Field is due to OSHAA requirements, “we’ll never be able to host anything beyond the first round” of the playoffs.

“We can play football at Whitney Field for the immediate future,” Schlotterer said. “There are a lot of things that need to be fixed there.”

 

‘It hurts our attendance’

The NHS athletic director and MacFarland said they have received feedback and complaints about parking and the safety and appearance of the visitor-side bleachers.

“I think it hurts our attendance,” said MacFarland, referring to fans of visiting teams.

“Whitney Field is in need of renovations,” Schlotterer said in a separate interview. “Aesthetically, it’s not up to the standard of the other (area) stadiums.”

Citing facilities at Perkins, Clyde, Bellevue and Tiffin, the NHS director of student activities said “the colors pop” there, which isn’t the case for Whitney Field.

“Nothing against Whitney, but it’s been the same stadium for the last 30 to 40 years,” he added.

Cooley shared a similar opinion, saying Whitney Field isn’t “at the same level” as other schools. He said the football field and track is at “a lesser tier than what we present” at NHS.

“Their stadiums are in better shape. Their field is in better shape,” the principal added.

 

Everything at NHS campus

MacFarland and Schlotterer said having a stadium on the NHS campus would alleviate the logistics of the track team traveling to St. Mary’s Street for meets at Whitney.

It would also allow the softball and baseball teams, NHS physical education classes and the marching band to use the new facility. They also suggested that Norwalk Middle School and elementary schools could host their field days at the new stadium.

“It could lead to more at our district,” MacFarland said.

The coach envisions a new elementary school building across the street from NHS, which with a new stadium behind NHS, would create a cluster of schools. NMS is nearby on Christie Avenue.

Ultimately, Schlotterer shares a similar perspective as Norwalk City Schools Superintendent George Fisk. In a separate interview, Fisk said he believes the district needs to have a long-range plan before deciding if a new stadium is feasible.

“Norwalk needs a clear vision of what Whitney Field is,” Schlotterer said. “I think a clear vision … needs to happen. St. Paul needs to be part of that, too.” 

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