When Gilcrest Stadium, then called Athletic Field, was dedicated on October 4, 1935, fans thought it was state of the art in high school stadiums. It had covered stands, could seat over 3,000 with ease and was within walking distance of the downtown area of Ravenna.
But alas, nature took its toll.
First, the structure was made of wood. While in actuality, it was not a bad decision to use as a building material, the location of Athletic Field would be one of major disadvantages.
It was located right next to a double track railroad. The noxious fumes and soot would take its toll on the wood, causing conditions that led to the deterioration of the structure.
The Ravenna Board of Education decided Monday night to close the stadium officially at the end of the football season. The final game to be played against Stow on Nov. 6.
"It was increasingly difficult to have the structure approved for insurance," said Ravenna superintendent Phil Warner. "The company had been after us for years to make the stands safe for fans and spectators. We had to close a section, and I understand these were put up in the 1960s, because the iron structure underneath had begun to become unsafe.
"That wasn't the only problem. The light poles were old. The T-bars that held the lights were very unstable. No one would climb the pole to put in new bulbs. We had to get a cherry picker in here just to change bulbs and fans will see at the next game, that there are many bulbs burned out.
"We just can't risk an accident. Many of us feel bad because there is so much history in the complex."
The situation is nothing new. The school board has been aware of the condition of the stadium and has made many repairs over the years. But it has gotten to be a losing battle.
A Key Leadership Committee was formed and headed by attorney Herb Kane. Their goal is to raise a $1,000,000. So far, almost $600,000 has been pledged.
The new complex will cost in the neighborhood of $3 million. It is located on North Chestnut Street on 88 acres and tennis courts have been built and are in use at the back of the property.
"We have also kicked off a seat campaign," said Warner. "We want to raise another $1 million. A fan can purchase a lifetime use of two seats inside the 45-yard lines for $1,500. It can be bought over a five-year period. If a fan wants outside the 45-yard line, the cost is $1,000. Names will go on the seats and the families can have the right to purchase tickets in the seats for the next generation.
"We are in the process of formalizing a plan to borrow money against the pledges to start with the construction of the new stadium by March 1, 1999. Our architect assures us that if we begin by March 1, and under normal construction conditions, the stadium can be finished by the start of the 1999 football season."
Also under consideration is a plan to use the human resources in the community. Residents can trade labor and any other item in lieu of giving money.
"Right now, we are waiting for final approval from the Ravenna Planning Commission," said Warner. "We want to advertise for construction contracts on site preparation by November. We are taking bids on timbering the back part of the site.
"We know it is a tremendous undertaking. I feel that the community has
the kind of people who can make this a reality because we want to use
only private money for the project."