St. John's Jesuit players practice Thursday afternoon as they get acclimated to their new Lyden Field. The Titans will christen the stadium when they meet St. Mary of Orchard Lake, Mich., at 7 p.m. today.
THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
St. John's Jesuit High School will christen a new multimillion-dollar, on-campus track-and-athletic field with a dedication ceremony today.
The $2.3 million stadium named Lyden Field has a capacity of 3,600.
The Titans will play a home football game at 7 p.m. today for the first time under the lights at the school's campus on Airport Highway.
The Rev. Joaquin O. Martinez, the school's president, said the new complex has generated plenty of excitement on campus.
"What we always want to do here at St. John's is to give them the best facilities," Father Martinez said. "If you walk around campus, the physical plan is really in top shape. The students are excited. We'll have a big celebration around it."
The stadium was completed earlier this year. The complex features two press boxes, an electronic scoreboard, concession area, and lights. Blue and yellow flags ring the top of the stands.
The field is named for the Lyden family, longtime supporters of the private Catholic school.
Father Martinez said former board Chairman Geoff Lyden took a leadership role when a committee was formed in 2009 to examine the project.
"They are a very active and generous family," he said.
Brett Loney, the school's vice president of advancement, said the track and field will be used by 22 athletic teams.
"This was really driven by what our students needed," Mr. Loney said. "If you look at the number of students who now use the facility, it is used for gym classes and intramurals. All of our students use it some way, shape, or form."
The facility will be used by the football and soccer teams this fall.
A junior varsity football game was the first athletic event held there at the end of last season. The facility also was used for track and field, rugby, and lacrosse during the spring.
"The track is state-of-art and it is certified," Mr. Loney said. "It is sanctioned so that any records set here will stand."
The track is seven layers thick. The field is a synthetic surface, called Mondoturf.
All five of the Titans' home football games will be played at Lyden Field. Initially only a few home games were to be held there because the preliminary plans did not call for lights or opposing bleachers.
For many years the school had played its home games at the University of Toledo's Glass Bowl.
The home slate includes tonight's game against St. Mary's of Orchard Lake, Mich. The Titans also will host Fremont Ross, Whitmer, Clay, and St. Francis de Sales -- all opponents in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.
A dedication ceremony, including a blessing, will take place at 6:35 p.m. followed by a ceremonial coin toss.
The home bleachers at Lyden Field seat 2,000 and the opposing bleachers can accommodate 1,600 spectators.
But Father Martinez said the design of the home bleachers allows for expansion. "The stands can expand. We didn't know what we would need because we haven't done it before. So we didn't want to put in 5,000 seats if we don't need that. So this is an experiment."
The campus has limited space for parking with overflow for varsity basketball games sometimes directed across Airport Highway to the Home Depot parking lot.
But Father Martinez said the school has a contract that will allow it to use CYO fields about a 1 1/2 miles north of campus.
"We will offer parking there, which can hold several hundred, and we will provide a shuttle service," he said.
Original estimates pegged the project's cost at $1.5 million.
"There were no lights and no stands," Father Martinez aid. "But when we started raising the money, folks really responded so that the budget grew in scope and we were able to do what we needed to do."
Father Martinez said a committee assessed the school's athletic facilities and made the recommendations. The board then approved the plans.
"The stipulation was that we build what we can afford," Father Martinez said.
"I wasn't going to build a facility and take on debt. It's all from gifts from benefactors, alumni, and friends. It was all done in a short time, and it's tough to do this in a recession too."
About 70 percent of the school's student body, which includes about 800 boys in the high school and about 175 in the middle school, play sports.
"This excited our alumni and students like virtually nothing else we've ever done," Mr. Loney said.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354, or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.