Shaw on-campus stadium to follow ASH’s new complex

By Ron Brocato, Sports

Two local Catholic schools are having their athletic facilities greatly improved, thanks to the generosity of “Angels.”

Gayle and Tom Benson have partnered with the Academy of the Sacred Heart to construct the school’s new outdoor sports complex, which will bear the names of the Saints’ and Pelicans’ owners.

On the other side of the river, groundbreaking on a football stadium at Archbishop Shaw will take place on Nov. 1.

Sacred Heart’s outdoor facility, located on the west side of the three-year-old field house, occupies an area on which part of the old gym sat.

Equipped with an updated irrigation system and a new drainage plan, the field is surrounded by a two-lane track that measures 8.3 laps per mile. The track has long runways for sprinters and hurdlers to hone their skills and a long jump pit.


Another feature of the complex is a 4,000-square-foot, multi-hole turf putting green to bolster the school’s golf program.

ASH officials said the Bensons’ donation through its partnership will allow student-athletes and physical education classes to train safely outdoors inside the safeguards of the Uptown school, and also serve as a green space for the Sacred Heart community.

Home-field advantage

What Archbishop Rummel High School could not accomplish – thanks to neighbors who cowed the Jefferson Parish Council intomaking it extremely improbable for a stadium to be constructed – Shaw willaccomplish.

The Marrero Catholic high school will have an on-campus football stadium, complete with lights to accommodate Friday night home games. Groundbreaking is scheduled to follow the All Saints’ Day Mass, at which time Shaw and the Salesians’ sister school, Academy of Our Lady, will hold a joint athletic event.

Rummel had planned to convert its practice field adjacent to the school into a stadium in 2004. But Severn Avenue neighbors convinced the Jefferson Parish Council that they did not want such an addition to their quiet neighborhood.

So, the council cited a guideline for such a construction that requires there be one parking spot available for every three seats. Because of the disgruntled residents and increased code restrictions, the project crashed.

That won’t happen in Marrero for two reasons: There will be ample parking on the school’s campus and not in the neighborhood, and the nearest single-family dwellings lie behind a bank of large trees to the south of the campus and beyond any illumination of the stadium lights.

The Shaw stadium will be located on the Barataria Boulevard side of the campus, behind the now-closed Hope Haven Center. The stadium will replace a practice field that sits south of the school’s swimming pool and outside the baseball stadium’s left field. The oval is surrounded by a four-lane track that will be converted from yards to meters when the stadium is complete.

A boost to athletics

The news delivered by Shaw athletic director Tom Alef is positive for an athletic program that has, in recent years,  languished by virtue of a smaller student enrollment due to several factors, including the addition of charter schools on the West Bank and athletes opting to attend schools on the East Bank.

Having its own facility will also save the Shaw athletic department between $1,175 and $1,375 per home game, which the school pays to use Hoss Memtsas Stadium on the West Jefferson High School campus. That facility, made available to Shaw primarily for Saturday games, has been the Eagles’ home-away-from-home since Shaw fielded its first varsity team in 1964.

The new stadium will be built in eight phases and honchoed by a non-profit partnership of Shaw alums and former and alumni parents who will raise funds and gather investors to build and operate the stadium.

One of the key people overseeing the project is attorney Timothy Falcon, who has a special interest in seeing that this stadium is built. A board member and co-founder of faith-based, non-profit Café Reconcile and Café Hope, Falcon is the chairman of the Greater New Orleans Rugby Foundation and coach of Shaw’s Rugby team.

Plans are to erect light standards during Phase 1, Alef said. Other features will include (over time) a press box with two suites on the home side of a bleacher section that will seat 2,500 spectators. The visitors’ side (baseball stadium) will accommodate 1,500.

Alef said the group behind the stadium hopes to acquire the Hope Haven property to convert into a large tailgating area. Also in the plans are new lockerroom and restrooms added to the Shaw field house in the final phase.

The field, which will accommodate football, soccer and rugby games, will also be fitted with artificial, all-weather turf.

“It will take a couple of years before everything is finished,” Alef said. “People may be using porta-potties at the start.”

Ron Brocato can be reached at rbrocato@clarionherald.org.

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