Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Home sweet home

It’s strange to think but this story was 16 years in the making. Standing on the sidelines in Steve Lopez Stadium history unfurled around me as the West High Wolfpack took the field. Their own home field.

The bright lights of Friday night finally shined at West High. Years of every football game being a road game ended with one kickoff as the newly dedicated stadium saw its first action against the Oakdale Mustangs. A rocky start eventually led to a West High Wolfpack come from behind victory but the star of the game wasn’t a player it was the stadium itself.

I had many assignments as the construction work progress through the year. The bleachers, the new all weather track being installed and eventually the artificial field turf being sown in place. It all led up to a dizzying day of activities as the school officially welcomed its new field into play.

A morning rally that somehow managed to cram the entire West High student body into the home side bleachers kicked of the day. The students and faculty were all excited as the anticipation was growing for kickoff later that day. It was quite the sight to see the bleachers packed against the sky.

Pregame festivities that night included the official dedication of the stadium to head coach Steve Lopez. Alumni gathered to present him with a game ball before hugs and tears as the team prepared to take the field.

The Wolfpack’s field and stadium make it the class act of the league, looking more like a small college field than a high school. The lights are some of the brightest I have shot under since my college days and the looks is professional. It is probably an optical illusion but the field looks big, bigger than most fields I have been too. A rowdy cheery section and the numerous video cameras recording the game for broadcast gave it that college game day feel.

The West High team may have had to suffer through years of road trips, a stranger’s house and the lack of a true home field but the new facilities make up for that long wait. They finally have a true home field advantage when they head under the Friday night lights.

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