When the 2014 high school football season kicks off on Aug. 29, two local teams will be back to playing on campus for the first time in several seasons, and a third will have its first true home games ever.
Scott, which played its last on-campus game at the former Penn-Webb Stadium in 2009, is hoping to open its new field-turf stadium that Friday night against Fostoria. If not, the home-field debut will be on Oct. 2 against Start.
Woodward, which last used a stadium that was adjacent to the former high school in 2006, will play host to Cardinal Stritch at its new field-turf stadium on Aug. 29.
That is the same night that — for the first time — Southview will play an on-campus varsity game at its new Mel Nusbaum Stadium, which will have a natural grass surface.
For each school — although their respective football fates have played out much differently in recent decades — the new stadiums represent a rebirth.
Scott: A new doghouse
Scott’s Bulldogs were forced to play all football games on the road the last four seasons because of reconstruction at the high school, which originally opened in 1913.
For part of that reconstruction phase, Scott students attended classes at the former DeVilbiss High School building from August, 2009, through January, 2012. The remodeled school and gymnasium were reopened that January, and now Scott has its new stadium.
“Just thinking about it makes me smile,” Scott coach Mike Daniels said. “There’s excitement knowing you’re going to have your community behind you watching you play football. I think it will bring momentum to our program.
“We’re definitely getting more players out, and the kids are more in tune. They see the construction. It creates a buzz for those who do play, and it’s making those kids who haven’t played want to play. We’re laying the groundwork as we go forward in the future.”
In their time without a home stadium, the Bulldogs posted a 9-30 record, a slight dropoff from the previous 10 seasons (29-69 from 2000-09).
“That first year was difficult knowing that you weren’t going to be playing at home,” Daniels said. “By the second year, it was something that was expected. We eased into it and it became normal.
“Kids were kind of discouraged to come to Scott and play football. They can go to another school and play homes games there. The most negative thing about it was knowing that you had to go on the road every week.”
Like Woodward, Scott’s budget for its stadium project was $1.1 million. In early 2000, Toledo Public Schools passed a bond for their portion of the project, according to TPS chief business manager James Gant.
Scott’s artificial surface was installed by Maumee Bay Turf Company for $363,000. That figure does not include site work by Rudolph/Libbe, according to Gant. Scott will also be getting a scoreboard, a press box, and bleacher seating for 750.
Scott will not have a running track around its stadium like Woodward has. A deal to purchase land adjacent to school property could not be reached, and there was not enough space for a track.
The school community would have to generate funds to add a concession stand and field lighting.
“I think it’ll have a very positive impact, not only on the school but on the community,” said Scott athletic director Jim Huss. “They’re ready to play tomorrow. By having a new stadium, it definitely adds excitement.
“It’s not a secret that athletic facilities play a large role in the recruitment of high school athletes. But there are a lot of good things going on at Scott right now.”
Romules Durant, the Toledo Public Schools superintendent, is a product of TPS. He graduated in 1994 from Waite High School, where he was an All-Ohio linebacker before playing at the University of Toledo. He remembers the pride he had playing football at Waite’s picturesque Mollenkopf Stadium.
“The main thing is that this will have a community impact,” Durant said. “They can celebrate around a landmark that had historically been a legacy at both of those locations, as far as athletics.
“The long-term impact is garnering much more interest. Any time there’s something new, there’s an interest that grows just through that. You’ll be surprised who shows up to play just by having new facilities, new uniforms, etc.”
Beyond all else, there is no place like home.
“Not only will it be convenient for the players, but it’s our home,” Huss said. “We’ll be playing in our back yard. Hopefully, it will also increase our attendance.”
Woodward: A spark for the north end
Seven senior classes have graduated at Woodward High School since the Polar Bears last played a football game at home. The Class of 2015 will be different, and just the anticipation of a new stadium has already provided a boost to the football program.
“It’s a new beginning,” said Woodward senior football player Isaiah Jefferson, “a new era. It’s very exciting that we’re going to get to play on a home field. It’s right in the heart of the north side, and it’s a new experience for the whole football team. We have about 15 more kids out for football just because of the stadium.”
The Polar Bears played their last home game in 2006 at the stadium adjacent to the old high school building, which was torn down after the new school building was constructed.
The Bears had been through down times in football before the hiatus, posting a 20-49 record from 2000-06. But those struggles grew mightily during the “homeless” period. Woodward went 5-64 from 2007-13, including a 53-game losing streak that ended in last season’s opener with a 20-14 victory over Cardinal Stritch.
During their losing streak, the Bears were outscored 2,606 points to 263, an average of 49-5 per game.
“It was pretty difficult on them, obviously,” said third-year head coach Sean Wesolowski.
“Whenever we had a ‘home game,’ it really wasn’t because we were playing at somebody else’s place. We kind of preached overcoming the barriers and the obstacles but, psychologically, we weren’t playing at home. It was kind of tough for some kids to swallow.”
Woodward hopes to forget and move forward.
“It’s going to be a fantastic opportunity for everyone to join in and get to experience Friday night football again,” said Woodward athletic director Richard Hug. “We haven’t had that in several years.
“From my perspective as a teacher and now athletic director, it’s just a 180-degree difference from the old look to the new look, and that includes the school and the sports complex. For those alumni who have never seen what’s here now, we’d like them to come over and see what Woodward is now.
“It doesn’t even look like the same area. When I look through the windows in the cafeteria now, it looks like a college campus with a college football field. It’s a whole new environment.”
The hope is that “the new Woodward” can serve as a catalyst for change.
“I just think it’s a wonderful opportunity for [Olde North End] Village in north Toledo, and it has created an incredible amount of excitement, not only for the students but for the neighborhood,” said Woodward principal Jack Renz. “Seldom do crisp and brand-new things occur there, and you can just see it’s a chance for renewal here.”
Gant said Woodward’s field turf cost from Maumee Bay was slightly higher than Scott’s at $373,000. The rest of the $1.1 million went for site work, drainage, construction of a running track around the football field, and a scoreboard.
Until additional funds can be generated privately by the Woodward community, the Polar Bears will not have bleachers, a press box, a concession stand, or lighting.
The hope is that these facilities can be used now by future Woodward players.
“You have to get the local elementary schools involved and playing on those fields, the kids who are going to be coached there at the high school level,” Durant said. “Those are some of the things that we had lost touch with. Not only do the high school kids want to play on that field, but there are elementary kids who are feeding into that high school who want to play on it just as much.
“It becomes a landmark, a lighthouse for the community to come to. You want the youth imagining coming to that school and playing there on a Friday night and having the people come watch them play there some day.”
Southview: Finally, a field to call its own
After Southview opened in the fall of 1976, a tradition developed in which parents of players, students, and other Cougar football fans would line Cougar Lane to welcome the team back home from a victory.
Jim Mayzes, entering his 21st season as Southview’s head coach after five seasons as an assistant, said the Cougar Lane tradition will continue, but it just won’t be needed when future wins are earned at home.
“Finally,” Mayzes said of his team having the new Mel Nusbaum Stadium on campus at the Sylvania school.
Southview’s Cougars have been a Northern Lakes League powerhouse in the past two decades, winning 10 league titles, a Division II state championship in 2008, and finishing as D-II state runners-up in 1999 under Mayzes.
“I always said I’d rather win in a parking lot than lose in a palace,” said Mayzes of his program’s absence of a home field. That said, Mayzes has dreamed of Southview having a home stadium since he was an assistant coach.
Since 1976, Southview has played its home games at Cats Stadium on the campus of rival Northview, which had retained all the facilities of the former Sylvania High School.
“The stadium has always been a goal,” Mayzes said. “Back in 1992, on the Thursday night before we played for a league championship, we were told by several people, ‘You know, if you win tomorrow, you’ll get a stadium.’ That was in 1992.
“Well, we’ve won the league quite a few times, and we’ve won a lot of games, and it’s finally going to happen.”
Southview athletic director Susan Felver knows all about that anticipation.
“A lot of people have been calling and emailing and stopping by my office,” Felver said. “They want to know about their seats, or if there will be commemorative T-shirts, or if there will be a ceremony. There’s a lot of anticipation.”
The greatest anticipation rests in the players themselves.
“It’s a great feeling for the seniors to play on a home field,” senior Cougars player Leon Eggleston, Jr., said. “The level of excitement is through the roof. People that I’ve talked to at school, and the players in the locker room, are all excited. We went out there and looked at the new scoreboard and said, ‘Wow, this is actually where we’re going to be playing.’ ”
Cutting future travel in half is convenient and economical.
“To say it’s going to be more convenient would be a severe understatement,” Felver said. “From a cost perspective, it’s going to be great that we’re no longer going to be putting our players and our band on buses and shipping them out 10 weeks of the season.”
For Mayzes, the new stadium arrived in the nick of time.
“It’s special for me because my daughter [Danse] will be a senior and captain of the cheerleaders,” Mayzes said. “I know it’s special to her. She’s always been a part of the program. She was a towel girl in 2008. She was on the field during the timeout with 32 seconds left in the state championship game.”
“Honestly, I didn’t think it would ever happen,” Danse Mayzes said. “I especially didn’t think I would still be here when it happened. It’s going to be nice not to have to share [a stadium with Northview]. There’s definitely a buzz with the students. They’ve talked about this forever, so it’s cool that this is actually happening.”
Southview’s stadium was named after Mel Nusbaum, a prominent Toledo attorney who died last spring. Nusbaum was involved with the school’s athletic foundation, which began working toward this stadium around 10 years ago, according to Felver.
The cost estimate going into the project was $1.2 million, according to Felver, who said $600,000 was raised through sale of land by the school.
The Sylvania Schools athletic foundation raised another $500,000 privately, and $50,000 came from the sale of scoreboard advertisement to Lourdes University and Yark Automotive Group.
The home bleachers will seat 2,800, and the visiting side 1,200. There is also a new press box, scoreboard, and fencing. The field will be inside of the school’s running track, which was redone in 2012.
“It gives us something that people will look at and say, ‘Wow, I want to play here,’ ” coach Mayzes said. “It’s a wonderful venue with trees on one side that make it seem like a bowl. Let’s hope that younger kids look at it and say ‘It would be great to play here.’ ”