Stadium project makes us long for sports

CHRIS MORELLI / THE EXPRESS The crumb rubber is spread across the new turf field.

On a steamy Friday afternoon, a few employees from Keystone Sports Construction spread the recycled crumb rubber at Don Malinak Stadium at Central Mountain High School.

To say the new turf field is beautiful would be an understatement.

Quite frankly, the field looks even better than one could have imagined.

Full disclosure, I am a sports junkie. I’d say that a great deal of my life has been spent playing, watching and coaching sports. There’s something about being around sports that makes me happy. When I covered sports, I always enjoyed getting to the field early. I’d walk around, take in the sights, sounds and smells. Get the lineups, grab a hot dog, that sort of thing.

On Friday, I had to run out for a photo assignment and happened to stop at the stadium. Truth be told, it’s the third time in the past couple of weeks that I’ve been there. I’ve been checking out the progress on the field — from the removal of the old stuff to the placement of the new stuff and now, the final touches.

CHRIS MORELLI / THE EXPRESS An up close view of the new turf.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, life — and sports — have been put on hold to an extent. There haven’t been high school, college and professional sports since mid-March. For those of us who are sports junkies, we are starving. We watch classic games on ESPN and the like, but it’s a poor substitute for the real thing — a live sports event.

As I walked around the field on Friday, I could envision August. Just seven weeks from now, there are supposed to be high school football games. Friday Night Lights are scheduled to return on Aug. 28.

So, in the midst of the July heat, coaches and administrators are doing everything they can to make sure that football — and numerous other high school fall sports — come back strong.

There will be different rules. Players, coaches and officials will be masked, at least during some parts of the game. There will be no team huddles or high fives. No more shared water bottles or Gatorade baths for winning coaches.

Make no mistake about it, sports will look different when they come back.

CHRIS MORELLI / THE EXPRESS The crumb rubber is dumped into a spreader.

So, will sports be back in the fall?

It’s anyone’s guess.

The Big Ten Conference just this week announced that non-conference football games will not be taking place. That could be the first of many dominos to fall. Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League have vowed to return — without fans.

It’s possible that high schools will do the same. Parents may just drop their kids at the field but not get to watch the game. As a parent of a student-athlete, that’s not just tough, it’s heartbreaking.

Maybe that’s why I spent a little extra time on Friday, just walking around, taking in the sights and sounds. All that was missing was a game — and a hot dog.


Chris Morelli is a staff writer for The Express.


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