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August 13, 2013

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Conneaut football field gets significant facelift as second season approaches

MEADVILLE — “We’ve come a long way from the flatbed on the hill,” said John Acklin, who spent the early evening Tuesday painting the yard lines on Conneaut Area Senior High School’s football field.

Acklin was referring to the first couple years of football the old Linesville High School, where he was the school’s athletic director as well as the coach of various teams.

“There was a flatbed parked right where that dugout is,” he said, pointing to the visiting team’s dugout at the baseball diamond that sits right next to the football field.

“That’s where we did the announcing. One year it snowed and we crawled under the flatbed and did some announcing from there.”

Today, that same football field — now the home of the Conneaut Eagles — is considerably more advanced.

Where once there stood a loose set of bleachers — some wooden, some metal — there is now a much larger aluminum seating section, tinted Conneaut blue and topped by a new booth for the announcers and coaches. Where once there was nothing but grass and some portable johns, there is a new concession stand and indoor restroom facility. And where once a knee-high rope stood between the fans and the field there is now a black fence ringing the entire playing surface.

“I like it. It’s definitely a step up,” said Conneaut senior linebacker/offensive lineman Clay Bortner. “We have more room. It changes the whole look of the field.”

Football players are usually too focused on the game to be concerned with the venue in which it is taking place. Yet, the Eagles can’t help but notice their new, spiffed up surroundings.

“I’ve been coming here since I was really little. I’ve seen this place go through a lot of changes,” said Eagles junior running back/outside linebacker Elijah Anderton. “This is the biggest improvement I’ve seen. It’s exciting.”

The price of the renovations was estimated between $800,000 and $850,000. It was paid for by funds that were left over from the renovations the Conneaut School District facilities underwent about a decade ago.

All that work was not done just for cosmetic reasons. It was also necessary.

The former facilities were just about sufficient for a small school like Linesville High. But for CASH, which is entering its second school year following the merger of the former Linesville, Conneaut Lake and Conneaut Valley high schools; they just didn’t live up to the institution’s larger needs.

“We needed an upgrade,” said Conneaut’s Athletic Director Brandon Crum. “We needed it not only to accommodate a larger crowd, but these are the kinds of stadiums we’re going to play in. We have to be able to house the opponents and fans and give them a good experience. This is a move in the right direction.”

The new bleachers are designed to seat 1,000. They will provide seating for both home and visiting fans.

“There were also some safety concerns that needed to be addressed,” said Sharon Sielski, the principal at CASH. “The bleachers now have to be sealed at the bottom so little kids can’t fall though them. You can’t throw trash underneath them anymore.”

What it all boils down to for the average football fan on a Friday night, however, is that Conneaut High will be a better place to watch a game.

“They look really nice,” said Crum. “They did a nice job. They show off the new colors for the school well. It will be a nice venue to host games. It really brightens up the new look of the school.”

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