WADSWORTH — A community dream is on the verge of becoming reality.
Phase V of the Art Wright Memorial Stadium renovation is on schedule to be completed by the Wadsworth football team’s Aug. 30 opener against Ashland.
The final hurdle in a project 14 years in the making includes replacing the natural playing surface with FieldTurf — the Grizzlies will join Medina, Brunswick and Cloverleaf as Medina County schools with synthetic fields — as well as installing new visiting bleachers and restrooms.
The $2.8 million overhaul was funded by savings from construction of the new schools within the district, Medina County sales taxes and more than $350,000 raised by the Wadsworth All-Sports Booster Stadium Fund Committee, a non-profit organization dedicated to all Wadsworth athletes.
“It’s easy to see the excitement in our community,” athletic director Rich Berlin said. “If you’re down there at the stadium during construction, there’s people constantly watching what’s going on.
“People consistently ask how the project is going, and now we’re getting comments on how nice the turf looks. It’s generated a lot of excitement.”
The visitor stands have long been an issue at Art Wright Memorial Stadium, as the capacity of 1,500 often was exceeded for intracounty games. Wadsworth averages 3,000 fans and hosted more than 5,000 against rival Medina in 2010.
The new stands slated to arrive next week will hold 2,500, bringing the stadium’s overall capacity to roughly 7,500.
The playing surface was another problem, as it was not wide enough to comfortably fit a soccer game. Drainage also was nearly non-existent due to one side of the field being four feet lower than the other, which led to increased maintenance costs.
The new FieldTurf is already installed and will eliminate these issues. It is expected to last 50 percent longer than its eight-year warranty, though replacement will be a fraction of the cost since the drainage system is reusable.
The renovations began with new home bleachers in 1999. Since then, improvements have been made to the electrical systems (2000) and parking lot (2002), and the field houses were constructed in 2002 and 2007.
The old visiting stands and nearby storage shed were demolished in April. The Ruhlin Company is handling construction and remains under the budget set by the Board of Education in April.
Art Wright Memorial Stadium has come a long way since it opened on Sept. 20, 1930, when Wadsworth, which was a year away from Art Wright himself coining the “Grizzlies” nickname, lost to Akron Kenmore 18-0.
If the last 14 years are any indicator, Wadsworth has no plans of allowing one of its jewels to lose its shine.
“Our community is steeped in tradition,” Berlin said. “Art Wright Stadium is just one aspect that shows how important tradition is.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.