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April 22, 1997

Continuing the saga of Perry stadium, detailing the headache that plagued city government and school district officials as they struggled to work out a plan for saving and renovating the complex on the city's north side some 15 years ago....

Stadium walls were in danger of collapsing; seating areas were becoming more dilapidated each year; public rest rooms and dressing rooms for athletes were woefully inadequate; the press box was far too small; and other concerns were mounting. The city felt it could not afford to allocate even part of its shrinking budget to help, and the school was barred by law from spending money on property it did not control. There was no disagreement between the two factions. Both urgently wanted to solve the problem and fix up the old place. Only the method was in doubt.

Finally, legal eagles on both sides worked out a mutually satisfactory plan. School officials and the city administration agreed that it seemed to offer the best solution. The city would lease the property to the school for a token fee and the school would assume responsibility for upkeep. The baseball field would be converted to a practice area for football, and baseball would be played elsewhere. Seats eventually were removed from the baseball stands. Football dressing rooms were replaced with a new metal building which also would serve as a wrestling workout room, thus solving another problem. The workout room at John Divine Hall, the PHS fieldhouse adjacent to the high school building, had become too small to accommodate the mat squad.

To provide a space for the new building, a portion of the crumbling stadium wall, was removed. Officials said that was one of the flimsiest portions of the entire wall and it would have required drastic measures if not removed.

Many of the difficulties existing then have been overcome at the stadium, but as we learned in last year's school bond election -- which voters overwhelmingly approved -- there are still problems to be dealt with. New spectator seats are needed, along with an upgraded press box and numerous improvements in the dressing room. The school bond issue is providing most of the money needed for all this, but Les Justus, PHS principal, former football coach and a star athlete here in his playing days, has an innovative idea for adding to that with individual contributions from PHS graduates and others.

In a letter to the Perry High School Alumni Association, Inc., Les appealed for financial assistance. He wrote: "We would like to build a multi-purpose building (at the stadium) that would provide the following: Weight training facility for all athletes in the school system; dressing room in the spring for the female track and softball athletes; (and) visiting football dressing room. One way I have envisioned to raise money was to seek help from willing former athletes from Perry High School by way of a monthly donation of $10 per week for one year. Individuals who donate this amount of money would receive recognition in the facility on a donors plaque." This, of course, would be in addition to funds made available by the bond issue.

I'll have more on the Perry Stadium, including some reflections on the original construction job, in the next Northwest Corner.