Creating a home field advantage
Michael Zordich remembers playing high school football games at Rayen Stadium and South Stadium.
"It was very special to come out onto those fields," he recalls. "The atmosphere was something else. There might be 3,000 or 5,000 people in the stands but it seemed packed.
"It was something distinct that, as a young man, you really remember."
That's why Zordich, a Chaney High graduate who later played at Penn State and with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles, is spearheading an effort to build a multi-purpose stadium for use by the city's two high schools, once the consolidation project is completed.
Zordich was enlisted by Chaney football coach Ron Berdis and Ray Jaminet, president of the Chaney Gridiron Club and an architect who designed a facility that would house not only football teams, but allow for soccer and track and field use.
The projected cost -- $51/2 million -- will have to come from private donations. Neither the city government or the Youngstown city schools have that kind of money.
Their own home
"Youngstown State has a tremendous stadium, but I think the novelty of playing there is over," says Zordich. "If there's 5,000 people in the stands [at Stambaugh Stadium] it still seems empty.
"What our group wants is a special place for the kids -- to make it a place they can call home."
Zordich says the plan is for each school to have its own locker room, fashioned in school colors.
And, he knows right where it should be.
"We really want to do it next to the convention center. It's a great location and it would help in the development of the downtown business district."
Zordich says, initially, the idea was to build two stadiums on the high school properties, but it's evolved to the plan that was pitched to city and school leaders earlier this week.
Which makes sense for a couple of reasons. For one, it's much less expensive to build one stadium than two. And for another, "We think we can garner much more support to build one centralized stadium," says Zordich.
For the stadium to become reality, though, some of that support will have to come from the segment of the community which has an interest in the city's private schools, namely, Cardinal Mooney and Ursuline.
"We are open to that; the question has already been asked," says Zordich, who has had an informal conversation with at least one influential person associated with one of the parochial schools.
According to Jaminet, once the facility is built, the schools could share in the expenses -- namely, electricity, maintenance and security.
"This is something that I have felt for a long time was needed," says Jaminet, who had three sons play football at Chaney.
"The kids deserve to have that kind of facility."
A feasibility study has been ordered to determine if the stadium can be constructed at the convention center site.
"My concern right now is that location," says Zordich. "We're willing to do whatever the city asks -- purchase the land, sign a lease -- to get it built there."
"We need the city to embrace that [area]," says Jaminet.
Let's get it done
Scheduling would have to be a team effort, but if all four schools participated -- five if Youngstown Christian is included -- there would be approximately 20 home dates each football season. In a 10-week season, there's 50 possible playing dates, when one factors in Thursday, day-night doubleheaders on Saturday and even Friday doubleheaders.
And, if done correctly, it's a facility that could be used virtually year-round. All of the city's middle schools could use the facility for football and track and field. Outdoor soccer is played virtually all year, and the AAU and YMCA-sponsored track and field events could be held throughout the summer.
Hopefully, whatever obstacles there are can be overcome quickly. This facility is an idea that is long overdue and much needed for the youth of the city.
For more information or to provide support, contact Zordich's group, Homefield Advantage, at (330) 509-3878.
XRob Todor is sports editor of The Vindicator. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.