Three months after losing a high school, the community of Lake Local Schools Friday night gained a newly rebuilt stadium and the sense of a new beginning.
A near-capacity crowd of almost 5,000 people cheered and applauded as they rededicated the district's chief athletic complex on Lemoyne Road as Lake Community Stadium.
Complete with new lights, scoreboard, visitors bleachers, and top-of-the-line synthetic turf, the stadium stood in bright contrast to the state of devastation that followed the June 5 tornado, which also leveled much of nearby Lake High School.
The rededication event preceded Lake High School's home-opener football game against Northwood High School. Master of ceremonies Dan Cummins, sports director for WTOL-TV, Channel 11, announced that the stadium was dedicated "in memory of those lost, and in honor of those who lost or risked everything on June 5.
"And may it long stand as an enduring symbol of our unity and strength," he added.
Some had to pass by the ruins of the high school, its interior corridors wide open and exposed to the outside air. Even once inside the stadium gates, the building was hard to ignore.
"It's almost unbelievable - to look at the school over there and then see the new football field," said Jim LaCourse, 67, an East Toledoan who came to root for Lake.
Lake graduate Kristin Lawall, 24, said it was emotional for her to see up close what remained of her alma mater.
"It was pretty hard," Miss Lawall, class of 2004, said. "I saw a hallway that I used to walk through."
For many at the game, the night was as much about community as it was football. With the bleachers packed to the stadium's 4,600-person seating capacity, hundreds of spectators stood around the field's perimeter fence.
Jane Brittenham of Millbury, a mother of five former or current Lake district students, said she had never seen so many people at a Lake football game.
"I think pretty much the whole school came out," she said. "This place is packed."
Until Friday, Madlyn Walters, 67, of Lake Township hadn't attended a Lake football game since the 1980s. Ms. Walters said a sense of community brought her out again.
The pregame ceremony reserved special honors for the tornado's first-responders, as well as the corporate sponsors and volunteers who have helped the district rebuild and regroup after the tornado.
Superintendent Jim Witt received a proclamation from Wood County commissioners, congratulating the district on "the beginning of a new start."
Uniformed members of Lake Township's fire, police, and EMS services received the longest applause of the evening.
After passing through a line of Lake cheerleaders, the first responders stood on the field with the Lake marching band for the national anthem.
Then, another chapter of school history began with the Lake Flyers taking the field against the Northwood Rangers.
Contact JC Reindl at:
or 419-724-6065.-31.17478 150.3566
Three months after losing a high school, the community of Lake Local Schools last night gained a newly rebuilt stadium and the sense of a new beginning.