Ravenswood High School will celebrate 100 years of football in 2014 with plans in the works for holding their biggest games on home turf.
However, the Red Devils face a stumbling block for kicking off the season on Flinn Field. They need new bleachers to replace the dilapidated concrete ones that were condemned and removed last summer.
A small, temporary set was used last football season when most of the major games were played elsewhere, said Principal Jo Hendricks.
“We go in cycles every other season,” she said. “To play the big gates at home, we need a lot of seating. Plus we are celebrating our 100th year of football at Ravenswood High School.”
The Jackson County Board of Education has plans in the works to replace the portion of bleachers removed in 2013.
Jackson County Superintendent Blaine Hess declined to say how much that might cost. The project awaits an official stamp of approval by the school board and bids must be taken, he said.
However, the overall project including new bleachers and a press box is expected to total about $600,000.
Meanwhile, Ravenswood High School administrators, coaches, teachers and students are scrambling to get support for the stadium project.
When the concrete bleachers were condemned on the home side of the field, the school swapped sides with the visitors. In order to return to the home side with adequate bleachers, the school hopes to generate $250,000.
When completed, the visitors side will become the home side with new bleachers and press box.
The school is reaching out to the community, friends, former students and businesses for contributions of any size.
Depending upon the level of a donation, donors may have their names on a special sign at the stadium or be recognized in other ways. A “Buy a Seat” donation of $250 includes a season pass for 2014 and a name plaque on a stadium seat. Go to the website http://boe.jack.k12.wv.us/rhs for details about contributions or call the school at 304-273-9301.
Since the fund drive began about two weeks ago, more than $4,000 has been raised.
“We need seating for 3,000 people to host play-off games,” said Mick Price, athletic director and head football coach. “Our biggest gates are the teams we will play at home this year.”
Aside from bringing in funds to support athletic programs at the school, these events have an economic ripple effect on the community when visitors shop and eat in the area, he said.
In addition to games, the field is used for many things from graduation ceremonies to community events such as Relay for Life, he said.
Price, who is into his 36th year at Ravenswood High, became head football coach two years ago when he replaced Dick Sturm, who served as coach for 46 years before retiring.
Sturm figures he has coached 2,300 students over the years and figures if each could chip in a few dollars on the stadium project that the amount could quickly add up to a successful fund drive.
“This will be our 100th year as a football team,” said Preston Humphreys, a junior who serves as running back and kicker on the team. “We will definitely make the play-offs. A lot of people will come back and see the team.”
Fixing up the stadium will make the entire atmosphere more appealing, he said.
Connor Jelich, a senior and linebacker on the team, said, “It will allow us to host home play-offs. It will make it look nice for the community.
The two coaches are confident that the community and former students will be supportive of the project.
Throughout the years, students have been good athletes as well as community minded, Sturm said. He notes they have participated in projects such as maintaining parks, reading to children, wrapping gifts for the elderly, or collecting gifts for needy kids.
The coaches believe lots of folks will do their part to fund a quality stadium project.
“We want something enduring for the next 50 or 60 years,” Sturm said. “We don’t want a band aid.”
Price said, “Dick is retired and I am close to retirement. This is a passion.”
He said the new stadium will improve the football program while being a plus to the entire community.
“This is our 100th year of football,” he said. When graduates return, “I want them to see this school has been taken care of. Many schools have consolidated and the field is away from the school. This town is abuzz on football night. It’s a big deal when a game is going on here.”
What is the alternate plan for fall if the stadium is not completed?
“It’s gonna happen,” Price said.
Sturm said failure is not an option.
“There is the right way, the wrong way, and the Red Devil way,” Sturm said. “It will happen. Pride and tradition at Ravenswood High School are deep rooted.”