NEW MANCHESTER - Oak Glen Golden Bears fans came ready for some football on fresh home turf Friday night as they celebrated the long-awaited opening of the Oak Glen Multi-Sports Complex.
Parents, students, players, teachers and other supporters had plenty to whoop and holler about on Friday - not just the Golden Bears football team as it took the home field for the first time, but principals from the past and other dignitaries who gathered to dedicate the gleaming, $5.5 million complex.
"Did you see how Russell Slack got the loudest cheers?" Principal Barbara Logue said of the man who was principal when Oak Glen opened in 1963.
Hancock County Schools Superintendent Suzan Smith, second from right, and school board President Jerry Durante cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony Friday for the new Oak Glen Multi-Sports Complex. With them are, from left, high school Principal Barbara Logue, Student Council President Jennifer Mangano and Hancock County Commissioner Jeff Davis. -- Stephen Huba
Slack participated in the coin toss, along with former principals Thomas Salvati, Suzan Smith, George Danford, Wayne Neely and Logue.
Smith, now superintendent, called the ceremony a "night of celebration" that fulfilled the original intent of those who built Oak Glen High School-to have a football stadium next door to the high school.
"I am so excited," Smith said. "This will bring years and years and years of benefits for our students and the community. Our students deserve this."
Previously, the Golden Bears played their homes games at Memorial Stadium in Newell. They played their last game there in November. The stadium is now up for sale.
Longtime high school teacher Kelsey Hayward, a 1967 Oak Glen graduate, said Friday night was an emotional night for him.
"To see a dream come true - it's wonderful. As a matter of fact, I got choked up here," he said.
Hayward, who teaches advanced placement American history, advanced placement psychology and theater, said he's glad the team and the fans no longer have to travel to Newell for a home game.
"We're very lucky to have this stadium. I think it's gorgeous - and it's accessible," he said.
Other fans praised the stadium as they awaited the beginning of the dedication ceremonies.
"I personally like the seats," said Shana Adams, a 2002 graduate of Oak Glen and a mother of three Oak Glen Junior Bears. "I fell they're safer. The kids can't fall through these."
Curtis McGurren, a 1979 graduate and season ticket-holder, called the stadium "really nice. ... I like the seating. It's comfortable."
Athletic Director Phil Rujak, who was master of ceremonies Friday night, said there's a "wow factor" about the new complex.
"The big 'OG' in the middle. The turf. The blue end zones with the gold lettering. It all just pops right out at you," he said. "We're a class AA high school, but I feel like I'm on a small college campus."
Rujak said he also likes the convenience of a truly home field.
"There's nothing like walking out your own back door and onto your own field. Logistically, it's just so much easier," he said.
Del. Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, has been walking the sidelines as a member of the "Chain Gang" since about 1994. He said he was thrilled at the sight of the new stadium.
"I think it's great. This is historic in nature," he said. "Oak Glen has never had its own field, so for this to happen finally, it's super."
Swartzmiller wrote the lyrics for the song "Friday Night Chaos," which debuted Friday, as part of a music video, on the state-of-the-art scoreboard. The song was recorded by Fred Ludovici and Mad River Men, and the video was produced by Rick Smith and Stephanie Renner.
(Huba can be contacted at email@example.com)