After a long wait, Bellefonte Area High School will get to play its final home game of the season — against rival Bald Eagle Area in the Curtin Bowl — on its home turf.
The district announced over social media on Thursday that the building inspectors completed their final inspection of Rogers Stadium, and gave the OK for players, coaches and fans to utilize the bleachers and field Friday evening for the 7 p.m. kickoff.
Rogers Stadium, which also hosts track and field, soccer, field hockey and other teams, has been unavailable for use this fall sports season due to the ongoing $7 million renovation project.
The field and stadium portion of the project were initially expected to be completed in September, but a discrepancy over the site work contractor and a summer of record rainfall set back the project.
Without Rogers Stadium, Bellefonte had to come up with alternative locations for “home” games. They “flipped” with Jersey Shore, and held their first “home game” there, and will switch next season. They also held games at BEA’s Alumni Stadium, and at Lock Haven University.
District business manager Ken Bean said that despite the loss in ticket sales and concessions revenue, the deficit was offset by not having to pay for ticket takers and field maintenance.
Dave Stezin, of Reynolds Construction, who is overseeing Phase I of the project, said their goal was to have the field ready to be played upon by the BEA game.
“I just think it’s a great reward for the kids, who have put so much time into practicing,” he said on a podcast posted by the district on Wednesday.
To allow the game to be played at Rogers Stadium, the building inspectors needed to grant a temporary occupancy permit. Another one will need to be granted for Phase 2, Stezin said.
Although the field will be playable and the stands approved for occupancy for Friday, Phase 1 is not quite complete. Stezin said there’s still some paving on the track and dressing up to do, but he expects to be completely finished by the end of next week.
Once Phase 1 is complete, they will start the planning process for Phase 2, which will include evaluating the plans and specifications and setting up the bidding. Stezin said that the district has again hired Reynolds Construction to oversee that process and to hopefully safeguard against some of the delays that plagued the first phase of the project.
Work on Phase 2 is expected to start in the spring, and includes construction of the field houses, concession stand and bathrooms.
The Rogers Stadium renovations are funded in part by a $3 million grant, $3 million from the district and $1 million through capital campaign fundraising.