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Donors get sneak peek at Mike Callas Stadium

November 30, 1999|By PEPPER BALLARD

North Hagerstown High School varsity football captain Bob Bechtel's feet whisked as he walked the plush synthetic turf of his new home field Friday.

As construction crews tapped out finishing touches on Mike Callas Stadium at North High, the senior defensive lineman crouched into a three-point stance, his splayed fingers disappearing in the blades of the bright green turf.

"It's nice to have something soft there," Bechtel said with a smile. "Our practice field is as hard as a rock."

Conservit Inc. President Jack Metzner got a sneak peak Friday at the field ? Conservit Field ? that his company put up $250,000 to lay down for North High, which has been without its own stadium since it was built 50 years ago.

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While Metzner's eyes were on the ground, Maryland Metals President Bob Kerstein looked to the sky, where the stadium's scoreboard, which his company put up $100,000 to build, towers as the state's largest free-standing high school stadium scorekeeper.

"It turned out every bit as nice as I had hoped," Metzner said. "What's really going to be exciting is when we sit out in the rain and the field is not mud-bogged."

The school hopes to dedicate the field at the football team's last home game, on Nov. 3, against Catoctin High School, Stadium Committee member John Williamson said.

Bechtel looked to the incomplete bleachers, and envisioned aloud how big the crowd will be for that game. Imagining stadium lights cast on the field already lined and marked with a bold, red "NH," Bechtel said it will be hard to control his emotions.

Student Government Association President Matt Amalfitano said he expects an overwhelming student turnout for the game.

"It's going to be a huge crowd control problem, but that's a fun problem to have," Williamson said.

Metzner, who played football at North High in the 1970s, recalled bus rides to South Hagerstown High School's School Stadium, which has acted as rival North High's home field since the schools were built in the 1950s.

"I had fond memories of playing at School Stadium, but I don't remember any fond bus trips," he said.

Metzner's former coach, Jim Brown, honorary chair of the stadium project, said, "They'd be playing at South for the next 50 years if they didn't have a fundraising effort."

Williamson said the committee will have raised close to $3.5 million, including $750,000 worth of construction industry donations, when all is said and done. The county financed $4.1 million for the project, but the committee is paying the county back, he said. The committee received $200,000 from the Washington County Board of Education's Capital Improvement Program, and also received funding from a variety of state sources.

Williamson said some county residents might have been happier if the school had opted for wooden bleachers, a concrete track, telephone pole lighting and a grass field, but he said that by aiming high, the committee was able to attract donors that ensured a state-of-the-art facility.

Nearly every part of the stadium ? right down to the bricks ? has a donor name attached to it.

"When you put Mike Callas' name on it, it better be first class," Williamson said.

As Amalfitano rocked his feet on the field, other North High athletes ? all dressed in the school's red and white colors ? smiled, staring at their feet.

Metzner, whose children attend schools in Middletown, Md., talked with Amalfitano, a lacrosse player, about the athletic history between North Hagerstown and Middletown high schools.

"There's something to be said of home-field advantages," Amalfitano said, smiling at Metzner.

"There's something to be said of appearances, too," Metzner replied.

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