Persistence pays off

Stadium dedicated with unveiling of Callas statue

Stadium dedicated with unveiling of Callas statue

November 03, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - Cathy Lewis said she watched the progress of a bronze statue honoring her Uncle Mike.

She saw the design move from paper to a clay replica, and finally, to the finished sculpture erected in front of North Hagerstown High School's new stadium, named after her late uncle, Mike Callas.

She thanked artist Chuck Noland for his patience when she thought the lips weren't right, or the ears were a little off.

On Thursday night, with tears and a cracked voice, Lewis applauded the artwork, her uncle and the local community for helping to make the long-awaited stadium a reality.


The approximately $4 million Mike Callas Stadium puts an end to North High's 49 years without a home stadium. The school had shared School Stadium with South Hagerstown High School at South High.

Lewis and North High student Christian Hatcher unveiled the statue of Callas in a private stadium dedication ceremony attended by several hundred people.

It was followed by a less-formal public ceremony on the field.

Callas, founder of Callas Contractors and philanthropist, is depicted in the statue wearing a business suit and with one hand in his pocket, because of his contributions to the community. The other hand is placed on a piece of granite, because he was a foundation of the community, according to Noland.

Callas was a force behind the new facility, serving as honorary co-chair of the stadium project before he died in 2004 at age 83.

The Michael G. Callas Charitable Trust later donated $500,000 to the stadium committee for the project.

The sculpture reads, "Mike Callas. Civic leader. Contractor. Promoter of education."

"I hope that you all remember that Mike Callas always loved this community," Lewis said. "And he did his best to make it a better place for us to live in and to go to school in."

Jim Brown, stadium committee member and honorary chairman, said a favorite saying of Callas's became the committee's slogan: "Perseverance is everything."

It inspired the committee to keep moving forward, he said.

The committee has raised nearly $3.5 million for the stadium through private and public contributions, including $750,000 in construction industry donations and county, city, state and Board of Education contributions. The commissioners are financing $4.1 million for the project, which the committee will pay back.

The stadium includes an artificial turf field, designed to accommodate soccer, football and lacrosse, and seats 2,000 people.

The first official game in the stadium is a football game tonight between North High and Catoctin High School. A ribbon-cutting begins at 6:15 p.m., and the game starts at 7 p.m.

Enthusiasm for the new stadium was apparent as spectators waited for the public ceremony to begin Thursday night.

North High cheerleaders danced on the track, the band did "the wave," and people in the crowd stomped their feet while the song "We Will Rock You" pumped through the stadium.

During the ceremony, the school's athletic boosters named the press box for longtime North High Coach Greg Slick. Del. John Donoghue, D-Washington, and State Sen. Donald Munson, R-Washington, read resolutions praising the stadium achievement.

Mike Callas' brother, Pete Callas, thanked all those involved with the project.

Student Government Association President Matt Amalfitano gave a student view of the new facility.

He said he was fortunate to live in a community that stepped up to contribute to the project.

"You have set an example for us students that, with focus and persistence, anything can come true," Amalfitano said. "We not only have a home, but we have seen dreams come true, and for that we are forever in debt to you."

Who was Mike Callas?

He founded Callas Contractors of Hagerstown in 1958 and was a well-known philanthropist.

A Hagerstown native, Callas graduated from Johns Hopkins University with an engineering degree, served in World War II and earned a master's degree in structural engineering, according to reports in The Herald-Mail.

He played main roles in many community causes, including helping to build Children's Village of Washington County, a safety education center for children.

Callas helped found the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce's Partners in Literacy program, and contributed time and money to other causes, including breast cancer research, literacy and student scholarships for the Boy Scouts and the United Way.

Callas died in 2004 at age 83.

When he died, he was honorary co-chairman of the North Hagerstown High School stadium project.

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