Nelson Field Improvements Not Ready for Opener
BELLAIRE — The excitement that surrounds the Bellaire football season is three fold.
Whether it’s a solid core of returning players, a new head coach in Mark Bonar or the chance to see the renovations at Nelson Field, Big Reds fans are counting down the days for Saturday’s home opener against Garaway.
Unfortunately, the full scope of the excitement won’t be felt because due to supply issues, the work at the field, which has been ongoing since the spring, will not be completed in time, according to Bellaire Local Schools Superintendent Derrick McAfee.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re in this position, but anyone who is trying to build anything right now can tell you that it’s just really, really hard to establish firm timelines because it’s so hard to get materials,” McAfee said. “We’re a victim of it just like anyone else.”
While the visitor bleachers and press box are completed and ready for Saturday, the same can’t be said for the permanent restrooms and the concession stand. Neither will be open when the Pirates and Big Reds kick off at noon.
“The community and the fans have been patient and gracious,” McAfee said. “We all want it done right. We could have gotten lower quality things in an instant, but we were not going to make sacrifices on this project.”
The Big Reds are home in each of the first three weeks of the season. They don’t leave the friendly confines of Nelson Field until Sept. 9 when they trek to Wheeling to take on Wheeling Central.
Despite the work that is still ongoing at Nelson Field, McAfee stressed there was never a thought of not hosting any of the first three games.
“From the very beginning of the project, one promise we made was to be playing football on Nelson Field in Week One,” McAfee offered. “We were going to keep that promise. There was never a discussion to moving a game.”
McAfee wouldn’t even conjure up a guess as to when the projects will be officially completed. He wasn’t trying to avoid the question. He honestly didn’t know.
“We have rough estimates of when we expect the rest of the things to get here, but they’ve been rough estimates since the beginning,” McAfee said. “The goal is to simply have it ready every week. We want the community to enjoy it and the kids to compete.”
McAfee pointed out that there will be restrooms available on site. They will be portable, but they’re “as nice as a portable unit could be.”
“The restrooms will be a trailer that’s air conditioning and has running water,” McAfee said.
As for the concession stands, food and drinks will be on sale Saturday. Food trucks will be stationed in the south end of the field and the band parents, who normally oversee the concession stands at games as a fundraiser, will also be selling snacks and drinks.
“We’re hoping against hope for concessions to be open by Week Two (against Fort Frye),” McAfee said. “We’re going to do everything we can to get into the concession stand, but we have to make sure the work is done correctly. We’re not going to push the contractor out to get in there before things are done to the standard.”
As for the parking lot that is just outside the main gate to the stadium, McAfee said only a small portion of it was lost due to the new location of the concession stand. The remaining portion of the lot, however, has been home to the equipment being utilized in the construction. The construction company will be moving its equipment out of the way, so the lot can be utilized.
“The temporary fencing that’s up will be coming down and the equipment trailer will be moved,” McAfee said. “There will be a slight loss (of parking space), but it’s not going to be a catastrophe.”
Overall, McAfee has been quite pleased with the entire scope of the project.
“When the community passed the permanent improvement levy, we promised the clock tower (at the high school), HVAC at the high school and Nelson Field improvements,” McAfee said. “We wanted them all done right. It wasn’t just throwing paint on it and moving on. We wanted these things fixed for the long term. And the quality of work and work we’ve done is very, very nice.”