What the Rogers Stadium upgrades mean for a team that was without a home for nearly 3 decades

Seth Miller examined the new track at Rogers Stadium Monday night in the first official public event at the new facility, lifting a piece of the track to examine the Optijump sand in one of the jumping pits.

The sand is a type of U.S. Silica sand that’s frequently used for beach volleyball, and one of the many new pieces of the facility that Miller and his track and field team will use.

“There are lots of different types of sand out there and we probably have one of the best types around,” he said as he proudly showed off the new sand pits.

Miller, who is entering his 12th year as Bellefonte’s track and field coach, will be one of the many beneficiaries of the newly renovated Rogers Stadium, which was put on display by the Bellefonte Area School District in an event called “Light up the Field,” scheduled from 5:50-7:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Tuesday’s event, however, was canceled due to weather.

Miller’s team is tentatively scheduled to host a home scrimmage at Rogers Stadium with Jersey Shore on March 17. That will mark the first time Bellefonte will host a home meet at the high school since 1992 — in the old Rogers Stadium.

After being on the road for the first 11 years of his tenure, Miller thinks having Rogers Stadium as a home for his team will have a big impact on the track and field program overall.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” he said. “We’re excited about the opportunities that can now exist for our program.”

Miller said it was difficult for his team to compete without having a home at the school. But now with the $7 million renovated stadium for track and field, along with the school’s football, soccer and field hockey teams, Miller is hoping more students will see the team competing and be drawn to participating.

Not only did his team not have a home for its meets, it also didn’t have a proper practice facility. The team would mark down relay lines on asphalt and put kick marks in the dirt in order to practice. Now that those limitations are behind them, Miller expects the program to take another step forward.

“It was difficult,” he said. “Honestly, though, we’ve said it for years and other schools in our league and our district have said it too, we’re really amazed at how well our kids perform with what we had, which were lackluster facilities. We’re hoping that’s all going to change with this new facility.”

In addition to the jumping pits, the new facility also includes the eight-lane Jeremy Herbstritt and Lt. Jonas Martin Panik U.S. Navy Memorial Track, named in honor of the two late Bellefonte grads, concession stands, bathrooms and team locker rooms.

Bill and Tracy Small were also at the event to see the new facility Monday night, and have hopes of spending many more nights there in the future. Their daughter, an incoming freshman, plans to compete for Miller’s track and field team in the spring.

The Smalls agreed that it was even difficult for the middle school team to practice in previous seasons.

“Last year they had track meets and didn’t have a track,” Tracy Small said. “So they had to run in the grass and practice on sidewalks.”

The Smalls are excited for the chance their daughter has ahead of her to be a part of the first group of students to use the new facility.

“I told her it’s kind of a record-breaking moment,” Tracy Small said. “The field is just being redone and she gets to participate as a freshman for the first time. It’s a special moment.”

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Jon Sauber earned his B.A. in digital and print journalism from Penn State and his M.A. in sports journalism from IUPUI. His previous stops include jobs at The Indianapolis Star, the NCAA, and Rivals.