ELYRIA — The entrance into the new Ely Stadium said it all — Pioneer Way.
After months of construction, it was time for Ely Stadium’s big reveal Friday night.
A reveal that allowed Pioneer fans the chance to see the stadium in all its glory underneath “Friday Night Lights.”
For the first time in more than 90 years, fans were treated to a state-of-the-art football experience: Bleachers with back support; LED technology in lighting and sound; a new scoreboard, provided by the same firm that supplied FirstEnergy Stadium, features a large video screen; and of course, a turf football field.
With minutes left before kickoff, drum major Kailah Stephens guided the Elyria High School Pioneer Marching Band onto the field before bending backwards, allowing the tip of her plume to hit the new turf field. It was at that moment when the fans stood up, cheered and rang cowbells in anticipation of the pregame show.
The Elyria High School student section, complete with students wearing body paint, showed their support of the new stadium by wearing all black, just like the football players uniforms.
And in the center of the new stadium sat a group of alumni wearing all red who never dreamed they would see the day when current Elyria High School students would play on a turf field.
Celebrating their 50th class reunion, Elyria High School alumni from 1968 chose this weekend as its celebratory weekend, bringing in classmates from near and far.
Tim Haywood, now of LaGrange, said the turf field reminded him of a college football stadium.
“I think it looks great!” Haywood said.
He wasn’t the only one.
Elyria High School 1972 graduate Bobby Green called the Friday night sight “fantastic.”
“It has an athletic campus feel to it. I am in awe,” Green said.
Green added that the new campus reaffirms the district’s commitment to enhancing the south side of Elyria.
“Our community needed this,” Green said. “I commend the school’s administration and Board of Education.”
Assistant principal of Eastern Heights Vincente Velazquez called the stadium “beautiful.”
“What it does for the community … it’s a beautiful facility and it shows the progression of the district. It was the right direction for the future of the city,” he said. “When you see things like this … and feel the energy … it’s the people who make it a community.”
The football stadium was the first phase of the multimillion-dollar sports complex. The construction of a soccer field and practice football field will come at a later time, said district spokeswoman Amy Higgins.
“The practice football field will be lighted, so football players can practice at night,” Higgins said. “It’s going to be fantastic!”
Higgins said a dedication ceremony will be Oct. 19.
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