Restored Judge William Rayen Stadium opens
By Sean Barron
Are you ready for some football?
Many people who used to play or attend games at a North Side stadium were more than ready.
And they got their wish a few hours after Saturday’s dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony that ushered in the newly restored Judge William Rayen Stadium, which had sat idle for nearly three decades.
The 45-minute gathering, themed “The Comeback is Complete,” preceded Saturday’s 2 p.m. kickoff between longtime rivals East High School and the Ursuline Fighting Irish on Jack Antonucci Field.
The East-Ursuline contest was special and evoked memories for many of those attending because it marked the first high-school varsity football game at the Benita Avenue stadium in 29 years. Ursuline claimed victory Saturday, rallying from an 18-0 halftime deficit to beat East, 41-24. Leading the Fighting Irish’s comeback was Tramain Thigpen, who scored three touchdowns and 96 rushing yards.
During Saturday’s opening ceremony, Lock P. Beachum Sr., school board president and one of the speakers, recalled the last game played at the field in 1983 between East and Rayen.
“I don’t remember who won, but I think East won,” he said to laughter.
Beachum, who’s also a longtime principal at East, said seeing the facility return to its former splendor has brought back many positive memories.
Mayor Chuck Sammarone, however, facetiously took issue with Beachum’s recollection by contending that Rayen was victorious that day.
Sammarone, who played football at the former Rayen School, said much of his work ethic
solidified during his playing days, as well as from life lessons his coach taught and reinforced. The mayor added that he appreciates the ripple effect the restored facility has caused.
“You not only built a stadium, you cleaned up a neighborhood here,” he said.
The neighborhood improvement aspect was not lost on Richard “Dickie” Atkinson, a school board member and graduate of the former Rayen School who played on its 1961 championship football team. He also urged attendees to continue to support the district.
Kicking off the morning event was Ed Matey, the district’s athletic director, who thanked those who had a hand in the project, a large part of which was raising close to $2 million of the estimated $3 million, beginning last fall, to make repairs and renovations. Fundraising efforts continue.
Among those contributing were MS Consultants Inc. of Youngstown, project architect and overseer of much of the construction and design work; Boardman-based Brock Builders, general contractor; former district Superintendent Dr. Wendy Webb, who voiced the idea three years ago to renovate the stadium; numerous contributors and committees; and the community.
Making additional remarks were state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd; Superintendent Dr. Connie Hathorn, who tossed the ceremonial first pass before the game; and a representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th.