By Harold Gwin
Artificial turf, improved seating and more parking are all part of the plan.
YOUNGSTOWN — The city school board has given its unofficial approval to a proposal to renovate Rayen Stadium.
Board members, meeting in caucus Tuesday, expressed support for the plan. All seven members were present, and none voiced any opposition.
“It’s a huge project,” Ed Matey, in charge of district athletics, health and physical development, told the board, explaining that he has cost estimates of more than $2.6 million.
He said Superintendent Wendy Webb approached him last spring and asked him to look into the stadium renovation on Benita Avenue.
The next step is to determine if funds can be raised for the project, Matey said, adding that he wanted to be sure the board was behind the plan before moving forward.
“Go for it,” said board member Lock P. Beachum Sr.
Dominic Modarelli, chairman of the board’s athletic committee, said his committee supports it, and Michael Murphy, chairman of the business committee, said his panel feels the same.
The Rayen alumni are behind it as well, said board member June Drennen.
“This is a fantastic idea,” said Anthony Catale, board president, adding that the district needs a “game plan” on how to pursue project funding.
General fund revenue can’t be used, based on the district’s current financial status, he said. Youngstown is under state fiscal emergency, and its spending is controlled by a state fiscal oversight commission.
Matey said district officials have met with Mayor Jay Williams about using federal stimulus money to help fund the renovation and also have spoken with the Rayen Trustees who manage the $2 million Rayen Trust, which is used to purchase items for the city’s high schools.
Webb said she plans to meet again with the mayor and trustees and noted that a recent story in The Vindicator about the project has generated a lot of telephone calls from people offering their support and wanting to get involved.
“I think this is do-able,” she said.
The 6,000-seat stadium was built when the former Rayen School was erected in 1922. Most of it remains as it was then.
The Rayen School was closed in 2007 and torn down as part of a district school rebuilding program, but the stadium is still used by the district’s two middle-school football teams.
The East and Chaney high school teams play their home games at Youngstown State University now but would call a renovated Rayen Stadium their new home.
The renovation project would include an artificial turf field, expanding parking lot, renovation of the stands and a new building to house locker rooms, public bathrooms and a concession stand.