DAYTON — After receiving school board approval last week to begin the process, Dayton Public Schools will now look to renovate, or replace entirely, Welcome Stadium.
The 11,000 seat stadium was built in 1949 and has served as the home for several DPS athletic events, Ohio High School Athletic Association competitions, Cincinnati Bengals practices, University of Dayton football and others over the years. However, DPS leaders said its time for the facility to receive a much-needed facelift.
“It’s a grand old stadium but it’s an old stadium. The locker rooms look like (legendary Notre Dame football player and coach) Knute Rockne played there,” Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli told News Center 7′s Candace Price Tuesday.
Last week the district’s school board granted Lolli approval to move forward with the renovation or replacement project and the district will now seek consultants and a contractor for the project. While the planning process hasn’t started yet, Lolli said the University of Dayton will be working with the district on the project.
“Ours will be to take it up to a Division 1 football, soccer, track stadium, for high schools, division one high school, and Division 3 college football will be the UD portion of that construction of that renovation,” Lolli said.
For Dayton School Board President Mohamed Al-Hamdani the project is long overdue but he’s hopeful of brining back some of the glory that the stadium once brought.
“This is the first step we’re taking to ensure our district, our families, our students and this city can look at Welcome Stadium and be proud of what it once was. We want to put DPS athletics back on the map. For too long our kids and athletics have been neglected,” Al-Hamdani said.
Early projections estimate the project will cost around $10 million. However none of the funding will come from the district’s general fund.
“In 2008 the district sued the state for legal issues around how schools got funded and we actually just settled a big lawsuit with the State of Ohio and we’re getting close to $13 million in that settlement and most of that money will go towards fixing the stadium,” Al-Hamdani said.
The stadium last saw renovations in 2008 when a new turf field and two-tier press box were added, among other changes.
The turf field made regional and national headlines in 2019 when the Bengals were in town for practice at Welcome Stadium. Star wide receiver A.J. Green, now playing for the Arizona Cardinals, suffered a leg injury that lingered through the 2019 season that he and his teammates blamed on the turf conditions at the stadium.
“I couldn’t run any routes all day,” current Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd said in 2019 when asked about the Welcome Stadium turf. “I’m falling all over the ground, it was bad. There were rocks and pebbles out there, it was somewhere we shouldn’t have been.”
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