After nearly a year of dealing with uncertainty regarding seating at Wellington High School Stadium, fans and students were ready to show their support.
They did that by filling 800-seat rented bleachers to capacity at the Dukes’ home opener Friday.
“We’re working on press box accommodations too,” said school board member Daniel Rosecrans as he worked at the stadium Friday morning. “We’ve built platforms that will be attached to the top row. They’ll have a covering and table area for coaches and media members.”
Temporary bleachers that will remain in place for the rest of football season were being assembled at the stadium Monday morning. The school board has been advised to come to a resolution by Dec. 1 on permanent bleachers that are estimated to cost between $210,000 and $230,000.
When the clock struck 7 p.m. for the game on Friday, the work of Rosecrans and others was on full display as those in attendance seemed to enjoy themselves. A 62-44 win by the Dukes certainly didn’t hurt matters.
Fellow school board member Ayers Ratliff sat among Dukes fans and was happy with the continued progress.
“It’s really, really special,” he said. “I think everything is going to work out and the kids deserve the best bleachers we can put in. The concrete and even these rented bleachers seem to be doing the job. Next home game, we’ll have everything ready to go.”
Justin Hartman, 18, cheered loudly with his friends in the front row of the student section throughout the game.
“I want to take that guy out to lunch,” he said in reaction to Trevor Porter of the Dukes, who scored a touchdown. “I’m looking forward to the bigger bleachers because these rented ones look too much like the visiting side. The home fans should have the bigger bleachers.”
Wellington village councilman Mark Bughman has been heavily involved in scoreboard and electrical work at the stadium and was also on hand to cheer on the Dukes.
“Tonight feels pretty good,” he said. “It took a lot to pull it off and get it together. I definitely want to thank everybody involved in the community and the school board. The outfit that brought in the bleachers, Wellington Builders, and the Wellington utilities department also deserve a lot of credit.”
Band director Toni Novotny said her kids were thankful to be back home.
“Everyone loves being in front of the home crowd,” she said. “It’s a different type of electricity. It’s tradition and we want to be here. We’re all thrilled.”
Cheelreader Julian McKenzie, 17, took a walk around the stadium at halftime with her mother, Karen McKenzie, to get a sense of the atmosphere.
“Home always feels great,” she said. “Going to Oberlin College (one option vetted for games) just wouldn’t have been the same. There was an adrenaline rush being here in front of everyone.”
“I’m very proud of her and everyone involved,” said Karen McKenzie. “The team has been great and everyone in those stands are happy to be here tonight. We’re pumped.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise Fans packed 800-seat rented bleachers to the brim at Friday night’s home opener against New London. There was an air of optimism after a series of setbacks regarding seating at WHS Stadium.