ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — If you build it, they will come.
After seven years of planning and painstaking work, a field of dreams became reality Friday night during an open house unveiling of the Farmers Bank Stadium Holzer Field complex on the campus of Meigs High School.
After spending its first 44 football seasons calling Bob Roberts Field home, both the Marauders and their supporters officially took their first glimpses of their new home during a two-hour walk-around at the new facility.
Several hundred people from the Meigs school district showed up to take in the unveiling, despite heavy rainfall during the opening minutes of the open house. What those guests witnessed was something that they had ultimately never seen before at MHS.
And that was something that simply added to the special night, according to Meigs athletic director Ron Hill.
“This is very exciting for our community. It’s really nice to have some new facilities that will allow us to hold some home track meets and also host football games in our own backyard, not to mention all the extra things that we have added and can add later,” Hill said. “This is definitely a great time to be a Marauder, and it’s been a long time coming. It’s a dream come true and it’s the gem that this community has been looking for for quite some time.”
The new stadium is located behind Meigs High School, standing just next to the current baseball facility where the old football practice field and track used to sit.
The old track was made of asphalt and had only six lanes, which made it unable to hold anything other than quad meets according to OHSAA regulations. The old football practice facility also had field goal posts that were either torn down or missing critical pieces, such as uprights.
All of those things were ripped away during the rebuilding process, as well as the small bleachers that sat on the side of the hill so that parents and fans could have somewhere to sit during practices.
In place of those outdated pieces, the new Farmers Bank Stadium Holzer Field complex consists of a rubberized eight-lane track that meets OHSAA regulations, a state-of-the-art football surface made of grass and the installment of new home and visiting bleachers on both sides of the facility.
The Marauders’ new home also boasts a new field house that will have several updated amenities, including a modern concession stand and more than 20 working toilets — at least 10 apiece for each gender.
The facility also has a new press box that is equipped with dual coaching boxes on each side, as well as access to the roof for additional coaching needs and filming. A new scoreboard will be in place by the start of the season, and the entrance to the complex is lined with personalized bricks that were sold to help fund the facility.
At first glance, it’s not hard to see the obvious improvements that will benefit many Meigs athletes for years to come. There is, however, more to this facility than just what meets the eye.
“This is a win for everyone in our community, not just the football team,” Hill said. “We now have a cross country course toward the back of the facility, and we already have a bid in to host one of the four TVC track meets this spring. If that happens, we’ll have 15 TVC teams coming to our community to compete for the first time that I can ever remember.
“All of those guests will be coming to our communities, our businesses, our concession stands. Bringing all of those people to our area will only benefit our area. That means nothing but good things for the area, all the way around.”
Another boost to the facility is the previously-standing locker rooms that are located in the original field house, on the outside of the school’s weight room. By utilizing that relatively-close complex, Meigs was able to avoid any extra costs for those otherwise needed spaces on Friday nights.
Hill noted that having all of these new additions to watch over will probably make his AD job a little tougher this season, but he also said that he was more than ready to take on that challenge.
“We may have to make some of it up as we go this year, but what a great problem to have,” Hill said. “Some TVC teams like Nelsonville-York and Athens, who have gone through opening new facilities in recent years, have been very helpful in what to expect. We are hoping for a smooth, positive transition into the new building and those fellow TVC programs have been very cooperative in helping us try to make that a reality.”
If the season started today, the new stadium would not be ready for kickoff. The scoreboard and visiting bleachers have yet to be installed, some barrier fencing needs to be completed, and both the concession stand and restrooms still have a few minor things that need to be completed.
But, with a little under five weeks left before the opening week of the 2012 season, Farmers Bank Stadium Holzer Field is literally getting closer to completion every day.
According to Hill, that has also added to the fun and excitement of what this facility is — both to Meigs High School and the communities involved.
“All summer long, I’ve been looking for excuses to come up and see what the latest thing to be installed at the stadium is,” Hill said. “We’re not completely done yet, but seeing it get closer to completion every day still gets me excited. And honestly, I think every citizen in the Meigs school district has been the same way this summer.
“It has really been a uniting force for our community and we’re very excited about getting this thing opened this fall.”
Perhaps the biggest driving force to this stadium project, new MHS football coach Mike Bartrum, says seeing a vision become reality is better than he could have ever imagined. For a former Pro-Bowler that has played in a Super Bowl, that’s quite a statement.
“This whole thing has been a dream … not just for me, but for a lot of like-minded individuals in this area that wanted to have something better for our kids,” Bartrum said. “Now here we are, standing in this facility — taking it all in for the first time. I’m still speechless in seeing it become a reality, but I would say that this is as good a feeling as any that I have ever had on a football field.
“I know that the kids and the coaching staff are excited about this place and the upcoming season, and a lot of people seem to be the same after being here tonight. All I can really say is that we are blessed with great people in this community and that we are really looking forward to our future at our new home.”
The Marauders officially open the 2012 regular season at Farmers Bank Stadium Holzer Field on August 24 against visiting Coal Grove.