WELLSBURG - A community long known for its school pride got another reason to cheer with the completion of the new AstroTurf football field at Brooke Memorial Stadium Wednesday.
Toni Shute, Brooke High School's principal, said Brooke County residents can take great pride in the field, which she noted is being funded not by taxes but entirely by contributions from local residents, businesses and groups.
"It's your donations and generosity that made this happen," Shute told the many attending a ribbon cutting ceremony at the stadium before inviting them to step onto the field so they could get a closer look and a feel for the field's new surface.
FIELD CELEBRATED — Completion of Brooke High School's new Astroturf football field was marked Wednesday by a ribbon cutting involving Brooke County school officials, members of the volunteer athletic complex committee that raised funds for it, representatives of the contractors involved and 12 students representing extracurricular programs at the school. -- Warren Scott
Shute said the ribbon cutting could have been held during the school's first game of the football season Friday, but those attending would not have had a chance to walk the field.
Before that, members of the Brooke County Board of Education and other school officials joined the Brooke County Schools athletic complex committee, which launched the fundraising campaign earlier this year, representatives of the contractors involved and students from various sports and other extracurricular activities, in cutting a ribbon near the 50-yard line.
Brian Ferguson, the school board's vice president and the board's liaison to the committee, said the group has raised much of the $400,000 needed for the field but continues to accept donations through its website at www.brookebruinpride.com.
Visitors to the site were invited, and still are invited, to sponsor a 10 foot by 10 foot square of the field for $100. Donors may post their names or name of a person they wish to honor and a short message that may be viewed by the website's browsers when their square is opened.
The committee took loans through WesBanco and Main Street Bank for the remaining funds so the field could be completed this year.
Ferguson said major sponsors for the project will be recognized in two pages of programs distributed at Friday's football game.
He said the group didn't find individual sponsors for the end zones, which bear the words 'Brooke' and 'Bruins' or the Bruins' 'B' logo at the center and conceded that's not surprising since the cost to sponsor the 'B' alone would have been $150,000.
But he added, "All of the small donations add up."
After the football season begins, crews will continue replacement of the athletic track surrounding the field. Expected to be completed by the second week of September, the $250,000 project is being funded by the school board, which saw the new field's installation as a prime time to replace the deteriorating track.
Chief contractors for the entire project were J.T. Sauer and Associates of Weirton, its architect; AstroTurf of Fayetteville, N.C., which supplied and oversaw the artificial turf's installation by its subcontractor, TPK Inc. of Allison Park, Pa.; the Vasco Corp. of Massillon, Ohio, which is replacing the track; and Ewusiak Development of Follansbee, which performed most of the excavation required.
Board President Jim Piccirillo said, "Two years ago when the committee approached us, they had a vision of greatness. All of us (on the school board) were a little skeptical, but they've far exceeded our expectations."
Piccirillo also applauded the many residents, alumni and others who gave money for the project.
"We now have the finest facility in the Ohio Valley," he said.
The 12 students participating in the ribbon cutting were: football players Alec Buchmelter, Justin Riggs and J.J. Bennett; Tiffany Rosnick, a volleyball player; Jared Harlan, a marching band member; Samantha Mazzone, a member of the dance team, which performs during the football games; Emily Hosler, a cheerleader; cross country runners Juliet Casinelli and Ryan Heaton; soccer players Amber Govey and Nathan Morris; and Austin Schambach, a golf team member.
"I don't think I've ever been prouder to be a part of this community. They care so much about the schools, the students and their education and athletic facilities," Shute said as she watched adults and children surveying and playing on the field.
A group of Follansbee Blue Wave football players ran across the field and tackled each other, possibly rehearsing for the action they will see as Brooke Bruins football players in the years ahead.
Superintendent of Schools Kathy Kidder remarked that her favorite part was the green and gold checkered squares along the field's edge, something said to be unique to the field in this area.
Carla Jacobs of Follansbee, whose son Matty assists the football team, said, "I think it's really nice. I'm glad they stuck with the traditional 'B' instead of maybe a paw print in the center."
Norman Tarr of Wellsburg said, "It couldn't be better. It's just great and it's fantastic there's no tax money in it."
Paul Brothers of Hooverson Heights, who is blind and was assisted by his wife, Melinda, said he could appreciate the different texture of the synthetic turf.
Barbara Lewis of Wellsburg, a regular at Brooke football games for many years, said, "It's awesome. I can't get over it. I'm sure all of the players will love it, too."
Though the field wasn't ready for the team's pre-season scrimmage against Canon-Mcmillan High School, the Bruins were able to practice on it this week in preparation for their game against Parkersburg Friday.
Alec Buchmelter, quarterback for the Brooke Bruins, said, "I'm really excited about the new turf. We're used to playing in the mud. And I and a lot of the other guys feel a lot quicker on it."
Sean Blumette, the school's new head football coach, said he was impressed by the school board and community's efforts and support.
"It (the artificial turf) makes our lives easier. We don't have to worry about weather and playing in the mud. I really look forward to putting a couple of Ws on the field now," he said.
(Scott can be contacted at email@example.com)