No one expected to find the press box of Ward Field on the ground.
Over the summer, a powerful storm damaged ONU’s football field, causing the press box to roll down the bleachers and land on the sidelines of the football field. Due to this mishap, ONU’s football team is unable to play on it during home games and have instead played on the field of Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School.
The football field has never been damaged like this before, Director of Physical Plant Matt Whitis said. Sections of the bleachers were damaged by the falling press box and the press box itself was totaled.
“It is not a functional facility,” Athletic Director Gary Newsome said. People need the bleachers to sit on during games and if there is no functional press box, there cannot be an announcer.
Despite the hard times ONU’s Football team has found a place to have their home games in Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School’s football field.
“It’s a good situation because it’s right down the block,” ONU football coach Mike Kohl said.
The football team played there during their first home game on Sept. 3. “That could have been one of our largest crowds to have attend an ONU football game,” Newsome said. “If the crowd could have been at Ward Field, they would have been standing.”
According to Whitis, there are three challenges to overcome when using a high school football field instead of a collegiate football field. First, the hash marks on a high school field are different than the ones on a collegiate football field.
“We had to paint appropriate hashmarks,” Whitis said.
Secondly, the high school goal posts are wider than the collegiate goal posts. Because of this, Newsome had to receive permission from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) to play with the high school goal posts instead of collegiate goal posts.
The third issue was that there was not a play clock at the BBCHS football field, which is needed at a collegiate level for football. The maintenance staff had to move ONU’s play clock to the field at BBCHS.
Despite the challenges, the players appreciated that they were able to use the field.
“Several of the players and staff thanked us for using their facilities,” Athletic Director of BBCHS Mike Lehning said.
The football team’s involvement on their field did not affect the high school football team’s practice times.
“We were able to work around our schedule,” Lehning said, “We practiced on Thursday nights. Our games are on Friday nights and Olivet’s is on Saturdays.”
ONU and BBCHS have a strong relationship. “We have shared facilities with them for a long time,” Newsome said, “We share our tennis court and swimming pool with them.” Their superintendent played baseball at Olivet in the past and both athletic directors have worked with each other.
A new press box will be installed at Ward Field on Monday, Sept. 26. After this, ONU’s football team is expected to play on their own football field at their next home game on Oct. 8.
–Shannon Vandebunte, Staff Writer