Total cost to Menard -- zero dollars. Total cost to Menard’s future -- priceless
It’s hard to believe that for a school celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, its football field has only been around for 20 years.
This football season, Holy Savior Menard will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the football field -- a grass-roots project that grew into one of the largest volunteer efforts the school has ever seen!
It all started in 1996 when several things were happening. The enrollment at Menard had dropped to less than 381 (in grades 7-12). The future of Menard was on shaky ground. Even the football team had dropped down to Class 2A because of the low enrollment.
A small group of parents had cleaned up the overgrown baseball field the year before so that the baseball team could play games at home again after many years of not using it.
Menard had a football field with a small scoreboard, small set of wooden bleachers, and a field of broken bricks left from a house that had been there years ago and lots of overgrown weeds. It was used for football practice, but the Eagles had never hosted their own game on their own turf.
For 30 years, the weeds in the field continued to grow, while the school paid $500 every Friday night during football season to play home games at the Pineville High School stadium.
The time was right for change.
So when a small group of parents were at a junior high game in Montgomery, they noticed the simplicity of the field they were playing on.
“Why can’t we clean up our practice field and at least use it for junior high games?
Wilson Cedars, Martin Lyons, Jeff Seiler and a few other parents made minor repairs and cleaned things up, so that the junior high team began playing home games on it.
After the junior high games began attracting large crowds, making profits with gate fees and concessions and raising the spirits of the students attending the games, more thought was given to the idea of renovating the field for high school use.
The 1996-97 Athletic Association, with Barbara Trotter as its president, and co-chairmen Wilson Cedars and Martin Lyons began what soon became known as “Project: Home-Field Advantage.”
Since the main obstacle was the lighting for the field, Cedars applied for a grant, which was secured almost immediately to pay for new lights. When word got out in the community that the field would have new lights, some parents offered to reshape the field “while we were at it.”
“From there everything started snowballing,” said Cedars. “People were offering to donate equipment, supplies, and labor. We knew we had to get organized and have a plan.”
Plans were drawn for a “functional, expandable” football stadium and the work began.
“The school had absolutely no money for building a football field, so the goal was to make the field functional and affordable so that Menard could host their own home games,” said Cedars.
The plans called for new lighting, a pressbox, scoreboard, concession stand, reshaping the field, installing a sprinkler system and improving drainage on the field.
There was a core group of about 20 men who volunteered their time, expertise, equipment and “connections” to do the job.
• Farmers used their own equipment to disc and plane the field.
• CLECO donated the poles for the new lights, but had no way of transporting the heavy poles. An out of town trucking company volunteered to haul the poles.
• A local feed and seed expert, donated, planted and fertilized the grass.
• A local plumber volunteered to install the underground sprinkler system
• 400 cubic yards of dirt was donated and hauled in by volunteers.
• Volunteers and a building contractor designed and built the pressbox.
• Local electricians volunteered too do all the wiring.
• Moms, dads, students, grandmas and grandpas and neighbors painted the (then) wooden bleachers.
• Local businesses donated money to purchase the scoreboard.
For a solid year, the core group of men were out there every weekend and every night after work during the summer. Hundreds of other volunteers showed up during of the course of the project including wives who cooked food for the workers.
Three quarters of the way through the project, more than 40 businesses had donated equipment, materials or services.
“It seemed as though the entire community heard that we were doing this and so many businesses called us to offer equipment, supplies and services to us for free,” Cedars said. “It was unbelievable the support we received from the community. There was so much enthusiasm and support for Menard then, it was .... just unbelievable.”
On Sept. 11, 1997, Holy Savior Menard played its first home football game EVER on their own field. More than 2,500 people attended.
Over the next three years, the home field had record attendance. People from the community, who were not even affiliated with Menard, came to the games to see what a group of volunteers had accomplished with a lot of hard work, but mostly with just a lot of heart.
No one was there for any glory, just a heart for Menard.
Within three years, the enrollment had increased to just under 500 students.
On Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, the core volunteer members will gather at Menard for a Thursday game and will be recognized at halftime for their efforts in building the Menard football field. The public is invited.
Picture shown above on website: SEPT. 11, 1997 -- DEDICATION OF NEW MENARD FOOTBALL FIELD. Wilson Cedars addresses a crowd of 2,500 fans during the dedication ceremony for the first home football game ever played at Holy Savior Menard Central High School. A core group of about 20 men worked every weekend and every evening in the summer for a solid year to build a ‘functional and affordable’ football field.