Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Fundraising begins for stadium renovations

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Tom fedor⁄The Gazette
The main entrance to the stadium (above) is not handicap-accessible.
Sports fans at Middletown High School have something to cheer about — a one-year fundraising campaign to renovate the school’s aging football stadium began this month.

The Middletown High School stadium renovation committee is seeking a total of $3.6 million in donations to bring the stadium up to date and accessible for people with physical disabilities.

The committee received its first major donation of $300,000 from Mark and Donna Gaver of Middletown. The Gavers and their children are Middletown High School alumni.

In order to raise the rest of the money, the committee is working with Nancy C. Saidis & Associates Inc., a professional fundraising firm in Camp Hill, Pa. The firm’s fundraising model relies on soliciting donations from local businesses and individuals in exchange for naming rights within the stadium facility.

Keith Powell, the committee’s chairman, said in an e-mail to The Gazette that the fundraising campaign would end in February 2009. Powell said 25 different naming opportunities are available, depending on the amount of a person’s contribution. Donors can name the stadium’s concessions stand, ticket booth, goal posts and track lanes.

Middletown High School’s stadium facility was built in 1974 and has had several repairs, most recently to the track in 2005.

At the top of the committee’s list of proposed renovations is the replacement of the grass athletic field with synthetic turf, four new restrooms and a concessions stand and relocating the stadium’s entrance. The grandstands will also be renovated to comply with standards established by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Tim Ambrose, athletic director at Middletown High, said the stadium renovations would begin with replacing the grass playing field, then the restrooms and bleachers.

The field is scheduled for replacement this summer, Powell said, while work on the concessions stand, restrooms, seating and ticket booth would begin in summer 2009.

Ambrose said Middletown High School has had to restrict usage of the athletic field because of its overuse and subsequent damage to the grass by sports teams. As a result of overuse, the field often becomes a ‘‘mud bog” and unsafe, he added.

With a synthetic turf, Middletown High School field hockey, football and lacrosse teams, marching band and the Middletown Valley Athletic Association could use the field all year.

‘‘Then we won’t be worrying about overuse and trying to get seed to start,” Ambrose said.

The field is not the only problem. Ambrose, who has taught at Middletown High for 34 years, described the stadium’s restrooms as ‘‘the worst in western Maryland.” The antiquated facilities clog, are not handicap-accessible and are too small for the crowds, he said. The school rents portable toilets to help with the extra demand for restrooms.

‘‘It’s just embarrassing,” Ambrose said. ‘‘We should be providing much better facilities.”

The new bathrooms would be located in the stadium’s northeast corner, where a new concessions stand and relocated entrance would also be built.

According to the group’s walk-through study of the stadium in 2007, the current concessions stand does not have the necessary equipment and space to cook food and serve customers. The parking lot to the main entrance also has no handicapped parking spaces and access ramps to the stadium.

New walkways between the entrance and visitor and home stands would also be built, instead of spectators walking on the track to access these bleachers.

Home and visitor seating would be renovated with new aisles, guardrails and wheelchair-accessible seating in order to meet safety standards. Home grandstands would expand to seat more than 2,000 people, while the visitors’ section would seat more than 1,400 fans.