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Ithaca High School stadium upgrades near completion

The football field at Ithaca High School’s Moresco Stadium is currently without a finished turf. The Project is expected to be finished completed by Nov. 30. (Photo courtesy of Ithaca City School District)

When several Ithaca High School athletic teams start their season in March 2021, they will have a newly renovated facility waiting for them.

The school district is in the process of upgrading Moresco Stadium, located at the high school. The renovations include new turf and bleachers, a remodeled track, and the addition of a press box.

The stadium is home to the Little Red football, cheerleading and track and field programs. It also is a host field for the girls’ and boys’ lacrosse programs

The original target date for the project to be completed was mid-to-late October 2020, but due to the pandemic that date has shifted to November 30. While in normal circumstances this would be disappointing to fall athletes, the Southern Tier Athletic Conference’s decision to postpone all sports until January at the earliest, allows the contractors to complete the project by the time the athletes step on the field in 2021.

Samantha Little, the Ithaca City School District Athletic Director, said that despite slight delays the Covid-19 pandemic has not affected the renovations process too much, especially since further delay could have led to the harsh winter affecting the building process.

“[The pandemic] allowed them to keep working,” Little said. “We are fortunate that we have people that are able to still work, and our timeline isn’t off that much.  You never know what you’re going to get with upstate New York weather, so all of this time during shut down they have been able to really, you know, keep working without interruption.

The new press box for the stadium, which will be replacing a structure that had been in place for 60 years. (Jack Murray/Ithaca Week)

Little said that the previous turf was just over 10 years old, and the Ithaca community was supportive of the project. Without this support, Little added, the renovations would have been much harder to complete, since the athletic department’s budget is less than one percent of the ICSD’s overall budget.

“Thankfully, our community is super good to us and voted to have this work done,” Little said. “We couldn’t do it without our community and our taxpayers, but it’s also a small fraction of where money is being allocated in support of all students and staff in our community. It benefits not just the student athletes but our entire community. It’s an instructional space and people really need to start understanding that it’s just like the library or a brick-and-mortar classroom.”

The total cost for this project was $2,334,713, as stated in the ICSD’s monthly project status report for September 2020. Little said the project was fully funded by taxpayer money, as the athletic department does not have enough money to fund the project itself.

Little said that in addition to the IHS students, the local community also uses the facility, especially the track, and a semi-professional football team based in Ithaca also utilizes Moresco Stadium.

IHS head football coach Clarence Welch, who also coaches the indoor and outdoor track and field teams, said the renovations will be extremely beneficial to both programs.

The artificial turf and track have not officially been placed yet, but the infrastructure to place them has been prepared. (Jack Murray/Ithaca Week)

“[The facility] gets a lot of use between football and all the fall sports teams and then the spring sports,” Welch said. “Over the years, it’s taken a lot of abuse and it was time for a new surface.”

Welch said that the teams have responded well to the idea of having newly renovated fields and that the effort of investing in students gives them more motivation to work hard and improve.

“It’s a confidence builder in athletes that you know someone’s investing in their  success and their work,” Welch said. “It’s fresh, it’s new and it is creating a buzz amongst the people that I’ve talked to.”

Though high school sports could start in January, the earliest the facility will see competition is in March, when the rescheduled fall season is expected to be played. In April, the spring season will start. Welch said the moment the field is used for athletics again will be a moment of relief for the entire community.

“Everything has been taken away from them,” Welch said. “I think once we get on that field it’s going to be a big weight off our shoulders and, you know, hopefully exciting things happen on this new stadium.”

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    Helen Wall MurrayOct 26, 2020 at 2:04 pm

    Nice to see this positive project is underway! Great article and video!