Turn on the lights! The party’s starting!
When the 2017 prep football season kicks off, Tad Gormley Stadium will have lain a new artificial turf, its complement of eight light towers will be fully illuminated, and best of all … there will be no rental fee increase.
City Park’s superintendent of facilities, Tony Biagas, announced the upgrades and the financial status quo to a group of 15 local high school football coaches at a recent meeting to select playing dates for both Gormley and its smaller, sister stadium, Pan American.
The rental fee at the 80-year-old, 24,500-seat stadium will continue to be $2,500 for an afternoon game and $3,250 for a night game, Biagas said.
Of course, that does not include the additional costs for security, an emergency unit on stand-by, ticket sellers and takers and the men in stripes who officiate the games.
For those schools who choose to play their home games at Pan Am, which seats about 2,000, fees are greatly reduced to $750 for a day game and $1,050 at night.
The other fees still apply.
As a result, Gormley will play host to just 24 regular season games and two jamborees.
It will be the home field for Jesuit, Brother Martin, St. Augustine, Holy Cross, De La Salle, Warren Easton and McDonogh 35.
As they did in 2016, Jesuit’s and Easton’s renewed rivalry will open the regular season on Thursday, Aug. 31.
Expect time changes
Mark your calendars. Afternoon games on Thursday and Friday at the two stadiums will begin at 3:30 p.m. and night games at 7 o’clock. Saturday kickoffs will be at 2:30 p.m.
But that all changes in early November when daylight savings time ends. The starting times on Saturdays will be 1:30 p.m. and 6.
The local news boys should be happy. They may make deadlines for a change.
Pan American field has 32 games on tap for schools like Booker T. Washington (yes, the Lions are back in business following near extinction by Katrina); Carver; KIPP Renaissance; McMain; Sophie Wright and Lake Area, whose budgets call for a lighter hit on the purse.
De La Salle will play two home games at Pan Am – on Sept. 21 against Hancock, Mississippi, and on Oct. 6 against Haynes Charter.
St. Augustine will have four games and its jamboree on the Gormley turf. The Purple Knights’ annual jam will take place on Saturday, Aug. 26. They will host McDonogh 35 on Sept. 1, Mandeville on Sept. 16 and Archbishop Shaw on Oct. 7. St. Aug will be the visitor against De La Salle on Sept. 7.
Changes at the ‘Shrine’
There will also be a few changes at Zephyr Stadium, or whatever the Baby Cakes’ management wants to name the Shrine on Airline.
It seems the 2016 experiment to hold a series of Catholic League football games in a stadium built for baseball did not merit rave reviews.
Officials complained about the small dressing quarters and the gravel infield that made it difficult to run.
The biggest complaint was that the visiting teams’ spectators had to view the game from end zone seats, which was the first base side of the stadium.
So the residing professional baseball team’s management has also made a few changes.
One, however, won’t be the rental fee of $5,600. That will remain intact. But it does cover security, parking and ticket sellers and takers, all employed by the stadium management.
In fairness, it does amount to the same price to play at Gormley when the additional costs are factored.
The baseball field will be renovated to include additional sideline seats (in right field) to accommodate the visitors.
Sod will be placed on the infield to make the entire football playing area a natural grass surface.
Six games are scheduled, with a possibility of one or two more to take place.
Still, the Catholic League schools located in Orleans Parish prefer to play their home games at Gormley rather than at a baseball field in Jefferson Parish.
And the parish’s two Catholic League members – Archbishops Rummel and Shaw – have called Joe Yenni and Hoss Memtsas stadiums home for 51 years.
Because the LHSAA requires the final game of the 10th playing week to start before 5 p.m., Rummel had to play its district finale against St. Augustine at the baseball stadium because Yenni was reserved for another game.
It was either that or play at the same time LSU and Alabama meet in a nationally televised game.
But Rummel AD Phil Greco would certainly rather pay East Jefferson High School $1,325 to rent Yenni (or $1,175 during the day) than shell out $4,275 more to rent the “Shrine.”
But kudos to the Friends of City Park and the others who contributed to the new turf at Gormley. The schools thank you profusely.
Ron Brocato can be reached at email@example.com.