Can Rayen Stadium rise again? Officials study $2.6M proposal

The renovated stadium would serve as home field for East, Chaney.

By Harold Gwin

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown City School District is looking at a plan to renovate Rayen Stadium.

It’s a project with an estimated price tag of more than $2.6 million, said Ed Matey, in charge of district athletics, health and physical development.

“It’s a large project to undertake,” he said, adding that, at this point, the district just wants to see if it is feasible.

The 6,000-seat stadium was built when the former Rayen School was erected on Benita Avenue in 1922, and, although some seating and minor changes have been made over the years, it remains largely as it was when first constructed.

It was the home of the Rayen Tigers who played their last home game there in fall 2006. The school was closed in June 2007 and later razed as part of a $190 million districtwide school rebuilding program.

Youngstown’s two remaining high schools — Chaney and East — both play their home games in Youngstown State University’s Stambaugh Stadium, said Tony DeNiro, assistant superintendent for school business affairs.

Scheduling games there is difficult because of a high demand for the field, and the two high schools get only three home games a year there, he said.

At one time, YSU played its home games at Rayen Stadium before Stambaugh was built, and Cardinal Mooney played its home games there as well, DeNiro said.

The Rayen School may be gone, but Rayen Stadium remains, now being used by the district’s two middle school football teams. The district also has an annual football camp there and occasionally rents the facility to outside teams.

Matey said Superintendent Wendy Webb approached him about the possible renovation of the facility and meetings took place with Mayor Jay Williams and the Rayen Trustees to discuss possible funding assistance.

The trustees administer the trust set up by Judge William Rayen to support the school. The trust now has a principal of about $2 million and has spent more than $550,000 on various forms of assistance to the city’s high schools over the last eight years to benefit students.

Matey said he has received estimates that show it would cost about $1.93 million to renovate part of the stands, repair concrete, pave the former high school site to create 430 parking spaces and erect a buildingfor new locker rooms, public rest rooms and a concession stand.

Another $720,000 would be needed to redo the football field with ProGrass artificial turf and replace the lights, he said.

Matey said he now needs school board approval to move forward and determine if funding can be found to finance the project.

He’s already presented the idea to the school board’s athletic and business committees and plans to take it to the full board Tuesday.

DeNiro said Rayen Stadium would become the home field for Chaney and East teams, if the project goes through.

Matey said there is a possibility that the city may be able to provide some funding through its federal stimulus money. He said the district will go back to the city for discussions and will meet again with the Rayen Trustees, if the school board gives the project the green light.

It’s not a cost the district could pay out of its general fund. Youngstown has been running a budget deficit since late 2006 and was placed under fiscal emergency by the state in November of that year. It is hoping to achieve a positive year-end fund balance this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2010.

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