NEW MANCHESTER - Like most small town areas in this country, the northern Hancock County community that surrounds Oak Glen High School has a lot of pride. Since the school was built in 1963 from the consolidation of high schools in New Cumberland, Newell and Chester, the community has had a lot to be proud of.
Now, with the building of a new on-campus all-purpose stadium and consolidation of all Oak Glen athletic events on the campus, there is even more pride.
The new stadium is part of a $56 million renovation program throughout the Hancock County school system. Cost of the new stadium is $5,277,000 with another $810,000 for completion of the "Field of Drams" and $644,00 for an addition to Oak Glen Middle School for the wrestling program.
While Oak Glen principal Barbara Logue emphasizes academics, she is convinced that athletics and other extra curricular activities play important roles in that education process and she is enthusiastic about the new stadium.
"We're hoping that with our new facilities we can host our share of state-sponsored events," she said. "These athletic facilities definitely are pulling our community together. There is a lot of pride. Our campus has been transformed into a showpiece for the community.
"Everybody had a vision of what the athletic facilities would look like and now that they see it, I think it supersedes their vision."
"The new stadium and 'Field of Dreams' are a dream come true for many of the Oak Glen faithful," said Golden Bear athletic director Phil Rujak. "A lot of people's dreams are becoming reality."
The stadium is located in the same place that Oak Glen has used as a soccer field and track for many years.
Now, metal spectator stands, about 45 feet high, tower over the field and a beautiful artificial turf with the interlocking "OG" as the centerpiece. There are seven vaumatories that take fans about halfway up the high home side stands.
The stadium features two large team rooms, one for the Golden Bears, the other for the visiting team to use during halftime. Oak Glen plans to provide locker room facilities in the school for visiting teams, Rujak said.
There are large restrooms and concession stands on both sides of the field and a smaller family restroom where parents can take small children.
Both the home side and the visitors side are completely handicap accessible.
One of the advantages of the new stadium is that the Oak Glen football team can dress in its own locker room at the school and walk right outside onto the turf.
Since 1963, the Golden Bears have boarded buses at the school and traveled to play its home games at Veterans Stadium in Newell.
"One of the things I'll miss, though, is that ride led by the flashing lights of police cruisers," said new Oak Glen football coach, Ian Whittington.
Over the years, the Oak Glen community developed a tradition of the team, band, cheerleaders boarding buses and being escorted to the stadium by Hancock County sheriff's deputies and community police vehicles. It turned into a caravan to Newell's Veterans' Stadium as player families and Golden Bear fans followed the buses.
"We'll have to begin new traditions," said Whittington.
He feels that the new stadium has spawned renewed interest in the Oak Glen football program because a total of 57 young men have reported to the new Golden Bear coaching staff, including 24 freshmen. That number means there will be a freshman team for the first time in many years.
Fans will get their first official look at the new stadium when the Golden Bears host Brooke in a game-type scrimmage on Aug. 11. The scrimmage will begin at 6 p.m. and will have officials and a game atmosphere.
For those that don't get to the stadium for the scrimmage, there will be a Meet the Team night at the stadium on Aug. 15. That event will include team members of all fall sports, not just football.
"The kids are excited about going on the field," Whittington said. "I'm not talking about games. They just want to get out there and practice. The excitement in Oak Glen football is there."
Rujak feels that there will be plenty of parking on campus for game nights. He said a tentative parking and traffic plan is in the works and will be in place for the scrimmage. He said there will be plenty of time to put any changes that may be needed in place before the first home game against Wellsville on Aug. 31.
"One of the things I want to stress is that these new athletic facilities have multiple uses for the education of our students," said Logue. "We plan to have physical education classes on the artificial turf weather permitting and perhaps graduation ceremonies and many other activities there.
"It is a multi-sports complex that has already been dubbed 'The Bears Den.'"