18 Nov 2014

City has Gritty History of Pitching in to Buy Aluminum Bleachers and Artificial Turf to Create Crown Jewel of Stadium

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Aluminum bleachers at Veterans Stadiusm

View from the aluminum bleachers at Veterans Stadium in Erie, PA. Source: Erie Sports Commission

It’s a story about a city getting together and raising money for aluminum bleachers that you probably won’t see on ESPN.

But it’s a story that is repeated in thousands of cities and towns across the country driven by millions of die-hard football fans.

Erie, Pennsylvania is just one example.

Dan Brabender recently wrote a touching piece about the 90-year history of Veterans Stadium in Erie.

Back in the early 1900s, Erie needed a football field. The games were bounced around from one location to another.

One year the teams battled it out on Keystone Field. Then they moved to the Eastern Baseball League Field. Then it was the old Reed Racetrack across from the General Electric Company.

Finally, determined to get their own field, Erie High School gathered enough money to purchase Athletic Field and gave it to the Erie School District for $600.

Here’s where it gets interesting. In 1919, the idea of a football stadium was tossed around the media and various organizations. Rather than sit and wait, the town made it happen.

In 1923 civic leaders started a campaign. The idea of a new stadium was talked up at luncheons and dinners. Prizes were offered for the largest contributions.

One of the biggest sources of money came from a concerted effort from students. They held suppers. Put on theater productions. Worked hard to raise money and in just 10 days, raised $150,000. This is in 1923! That was an enormous sum of money back then.

A stadium was then built in 1924. Just in time for the big game between East High and Central High.

Erie was apparently also one of the first cities to have a stadium with lights. Talk about “Friday Night Lights” in Texas. What about Erie?

This time it’s $300,000 for aluminum bleachers

This same sense of pride returned again in 1974 when after decades of use, the town knew something had to be done and they rallied once again. It was time to replace the old wooden bleachers. A subscription drive was started and $300,000 was raised to add new aluminum bleachers. $300,000!

In 1977, ground was broken for a $2.5 million renovation to the facility. They put in new restrooms, concession stands, a press box, lighting, drainage and new sod for the field. This is for a high school football field mind you, not Giants Stadium.

The stadium continued to undergo many improvements. Sponsors were brought in. An artificial turf was installed to overcome the mud and ruts created from real turf in stormy weather.

And the venue was used for more than just football. Various rock groups such as Chicago, Huey Lewis and the News and Bon Jovi rocked the bleachers. President George W. Bush even visited the stadium. Soccer games were played. Band competitions were held.

The stadium has apparently hosted the third most football play-off games in the state. They compete with Hersheypark Stadium in world-known Hershey for that title.

How many times is this story repeated across the country? How many fundraisers are held to expand a stadium with additional aluminum bleachers or fix a muddy, worn out football field?

That’s because in most cases, a local football stadium is more than just rows of aluminum bleachers and a place where you can buy hot dogs, nachos and a coke. For a town, a football stadium is a thing of pride – a place where people can all gather in one place. Not only to cheer on their team, but also to socialize, see old friends, meet new ones.

All this creates a sense of unity. You can see Erie is a tough, resilient place. Also check out the passport offices in Erie if you get a chance. Not just with their football players on the field but also when it comes time to roll up their sleeves and generate donations for aluminum bleachers or bricks or sod or a scoreboard, whatever. That’s a great example of how things get done in America.

Here’s a link to the article.

Our staff can also assist you in some ideas on how to raise donations and attract sponsors to offset the cost…just like Erie did. Give us a call.




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