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Last graduation at Ely Stadium brings parking challenges, memories

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ELYRIA — Commencement marks the end of something just as construction marks the beginning of something new.

Elyria High School’s graduation ceremony Wednesday juxtaposed against the building of the new Elyria multisport athletic complex will require some logistical changes for parents and guests. The biggest change will be parking.

There will be no general parking at the more than 90-year-old stadium that will soon come down to make way for the district’s more than $14 million facility. Instead, the district is setting up a shuttle service to get people into and out of the area, which is very close to the construction zone.

Stadium parking is handicapped and special permit parking only, said district spokeswoman Amy Higgins. To accommodate all of the students, parents and guests who attend graduation each year, free shuttle bus services will begin at 5 p.m. from the following locations:

  • Second Street between Middle and East avenues;
  • Depot Street between Cedar Street and East Avenue;
  • Corner of Depot and Washington Avenue;
  • Second Street between Court Street and West Avenue;
  • Near the entrance of the Elyria High School Performing Arts Center.

“These shops will operate on a continuous loop until commencement starts,” Higgins said. “The shuttle stops will function like bus stops. We ask that people plan to arrive early to ensure they have enough time to get to the stadium.”

Although residents can park wherever they like and walk to the shuttle stops, parking close to the shuttle stops will be available at these locations:

  • County parking garage off Third Street;
  • County Transportation Center off Depot Street;
  • County Justice Center on Commerce Court;
  • Elyria High School (all lots).

Figuring out how to get people into and out of the stadium is another reminder that Elyria is experiencing its last moments at the old stadium.

The concrete mammoth that holds court on several acres of land on Elyria’s south side — on land donated by William Ely, grandson of Elyria’s founder Heman Ely — was constructed in 1927, the same year the first feature film with sound, “The Jazz Singer” — known as a talkie — was released.

The stadium once was billed as one of the finest football fields in the country.

Yet its historic run is coming to an end soon with a community-supported plan to rebuild the stadium into a grander complex that will see the first phase completed in time for the Aug. 24 home game against Avon Lake.

The old place is home to a lot of memories and scores of Elyria residents recall their own graduations on the grass field.

Earlier this year, Ali Graham, a member of the class of 1998, said she would never forget sitting in the bridge of the H on the field at graduation among other stadium memories.

“I feel like I kind of grew up at Ely Stadium,” she said.

Graduations have been held on the Ely Stadium field for so many years that mothers and fathers now watch in the stands as their children form the same E-H-S formation on the grass as they did decades earlier.

Shirley Baker said she is the oldest of three generations that graduated from Elyria High via Ely Stadium. She graduated in 1972. Her daughter followed in 1993 and her granddaughter continued the tradition in 2014.

“I will miss Ely Stadium,” she said earlier this year. “It has been a wonderful part of Elyria’s history that makes our little city home.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 440-329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT and like her on Facebook.


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