The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022

Eggerss Stadium: reflections and renovations

Editor’s note: This is the fifth and final in a series of articles detailing the plans to renovate Eggerss Stadium.

John White/special to the VW independent

Recently I visited Eggerss Stadium on a crisp and breezy fall day. Being the only one in the stadium, I took a seat on the fifty-yard line and used the opportunity to reflect on Van Wert Cougar Football that only could be accomplished with vivid imagination.

The current view of the visitors locker room at Eggerss Stadium. The home locker room is in the Goedde Building. Photo provided

I closed my eyes and saw Gilbert “Gil” Smith coaching on the sideline with his low-key flair along with thousands of cheering fans. Smith, the winningest coach in Cougar history, amassed a record of 130-30-10 during the 40s and 50s. I imagined Willie Hernandez zigging and zagging as he took the ball 80 yards to the house in the 1950s.

I imagined other Cougar standouts such as Jim Young on the field who went on to become a HOF college coach as well as players like Pat Jackson in the 1980s, Joel Penton in the 2000s, and Owen Treece in 2020. The Van Wert community has enjoyed a long and memorable Cougar football experience spanning decades which includes our most recent successes with a state championship in 2020 and a WBL Championship in 2021.

So too has Eggerss Stadium had a successful run. The first game at Eggerss was played on September 18, 1936. To quote the Excalibur published in 1937, it reads “The 1937 Graduating Class of Van Wert High School will long be remembered as the class that graduated in the first year of the new Stadium Era.” Don’t you just love that? It’s so easy to simply take the stadium for granted. But now our community can enjoy a new and improved Stadium Era going forward.

The 1937 Excalibur goes on to say about the stadium, “It is also of great value to the community for such events as the Peony Festival.” We certainly had people with great vision, a vision that can be continued with our renovation project supported by our community of today.

Conditions in the Eggerss Stadium press box are considered very tight and very cramped. Photo provided

There are many reasons to renovate Eggerss Stadium and I’ve talked about most of them in past articles. But there is one I have not focused on much. The stadium has great bones! What do I mean when I say that? It has an amazing infrastructure. Did you know that the stadium sits on 64 concrete piers? These piers are pile driven 8 ½ feet into the ground. Each pier sits on 4×6 footers. The structure is especially well reinforced and built into one solid unit along with 20 tons of steel rods throughout. With 80 men working everyday for a year, it is just a marvel worth preserving.

As promised, I want to spend some time discussing two more areas that will be included in the renovation. From the outside, our press box looks pretty decent. It has new windows, a new paint job, and a new state championship banner. However, the inside is another story. It’s cramped, cold, and uninviting. It’s basic at best with little to offer but a small shelf to act as a table and a few stools and antiquated chairs. Believe it or not, the press box was enlarged years ago to its present size.

There is so much improvement that can be gained through a renovation. The press box will be moved back to accommodate additional handicap seating. This means opportunity for the press box in terms of better seating, table space, communications, and state of the art equipment. Remember, Eggerss Stadium will be upgraded to serve the community for more than just football. It’s an important consideration when the plans are finalized.

The other area of focus is the locker rooms. For years, we’ve had one locker room under the stadium. Early on, it was the Cougar locker room. Today, the visitor’s locker room is under the stadium and the Cougar locker room is in the Goedde building. While the current Cougar locker room is top-notch, there is a huge advantage to getting it back where the action is. Historically, spaces tended to be smaller. With a proper plan, both locker rooms can exist under the stadium and can be well appointed, highly functional, in a great location, with an all new look and feel including new showers. In fact, we’ll likely save the lockers used in the Goedde Building for use going forward. I can’t wait to see the outcome!

When considering a project of this size and magnitude, where does the Van Wert City Schools Administration stand? Superintendent Mark Bagley is 100 percent behind the renovation efforts and so is the Van Wert school board. Anthony Adams, President of the Van Wert City Schools Board of Education recently stated, “The Van Wert City School Board is prepared to move forward with a solution to the challenge of renovating Eggerss Stadium. There is palpable energy throughout Van Wert right now and the proposed project will only serve to enhance that energy. Athletic success, economic development, attractive interest rates and the Van Wert Forward project all make this the right time to unite the Van Wert community to accomplish something truly special.”

Adams went on to say, “The Board of Education does not take placing an issue before the voters lightly. A lot of discussion and analysis has gone into finding the best path to finance the project. With the community’s help, we can renovate this unique structure and create the premier downtown stadium venue in all of Northwest Ohio. A renovated Eggerss Stadium will allow for a wealth of additional uses providing benefits for all Van Wert community stakeholders for decades to come.”

This wraps up the series of articles about the Eggerss Stadium preservation. Our community has something very special here. I hope you as a reader can appreciate what we have. No doubt, there is work to be done. However, our stadium renovation initiative is very doable.

There is just one last question. What would Gil Smith say? I’d like to think he would say, let’s do it and do it right!

I hope you will consider voting yes for this renovation next May which will have a positive impact for years to come. Eggerss Stadium and Van Wert: Unique and United!

POSTED: 12/01/21 at 4:43 am. FILED UNDER: News