NEW MANCHESTER-Barbara Logue's eyes light up, and her face spreads into a big smile, when she starts talking about the new Oak Glen Multi-Sports Complex.
"It's so beautiful. It really is," the Oak Glen High School principal said.
No game has been played on the field, but Logue is already fond of the colors-white, Columbia blue, gold-the scoreboard, the space reserved for the Golden Bears' mascot, the sound system, even the expanded parking lot.
A view from the press box of the new football field at the Oak Glen Multi-Sports Complex. To the right of the scoreboard is an area designated as the permanent home for the Golden Bears’ mascot. (Photo by Stephen Huba)
More than anything, she's glad that the sports complex is adjacent to the high school and middle school.
"With the Newell stadium, every game for us was an away game," she said. "This way, it's all available. It's much more convenient for the teams, the band and the cheerleaders."
The Golden Bears played their last football game at the Newell stadium on state Route 2 in November 2011. While the Hancock County school board is readying it for sale, construction workers are busy putting the finishing touches on the Oak Glen Multi-Sports Complex.
Logue admits the name is a mouthful, but that's because the facility is more than just a football stadium-it is a facility for all school sports and the general public.
"We're calling it the Bears' Den," she said.
Athletic Director Phil Rujak is equally enthusiastic about the new stadium. "We're blessed to have such a facility and to have the support of the voters here," Rujak said. "The kids are so excited to get on the field. They can't wait to get out there and practice, let alone play on it."
Rujak said the complex has created a "buzz" among high school sports fans in Hancock County and beyond. "Other schools are looking forward to playing on Oak Glen's field," he said.
The public will get its first close-up view of the complex at a "Meet the Bears" event at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The first sporting event is scheduled for a week later-a varsity boys soccer game against East Liverpool High School at 5 p.m. Aug. 22. A Saturday scrimmage against Brooke High School has been moved from the new football stadium to West Liberty University because of readiness issues, Logue said.
District officials are confident the facility will be ready for the fall sports season, although they're still awaiting final approval from the West Virginia State Fire Marshal. The first varsity football home game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 31 against Wellsville High School.
"I'm very pleased with the outcome of both stadiums. They are both beautiful," Superintendent Suzan Smith said. "They will provide the students of our high schools and middle schools with many years of enjoyment."
Weir High School in Weirton also has a new sports complex similar in scope to the Oak Glen facility.
Both were made possible by a $37 million bond levy approved by Hancock County voters in November 2010. The district got an additional $19 million from the School Building Authority of West Virginia for the construction of a new elementary school in Weirton. That award was contingent on the passage of the levy.
Officials broke ground on the Oak Glen complex in April 2011. Coming with a $5.5 million price tag, the facility includes: seating for 3,000; a press box; a concession stand; restrooms; lighting; locker rooms; a scoreboard, with animation capability (at a cost of $100,000); 25-second clocks in each end zone; ProGrass artificial turf; and a public address system, said Joe Campinelli, district director of finance.
"It's basically brand-new from the ground up. We didn't take anything from either of the old stadiums," Campinelli said.
The sports complex also features additional parking and access roads for easier ingress and egress, Logue said. Wednesday's open house will be a "dry run" for traffic flow in and out of the stadium, she said.
In addition to football and soccer games, the complex will be available for physical education classes and other school uses. "This is almost like a small college campus. It's all here," Logue said.
The only thing that's not ready is the running track that circumscribes the football field. Smith said the contractor-Wheeling-based JD&E-got delayed with projects elsewhere in the country but will complete the work in time for track season in the spring. It will take 10 to 14 days to repair and resurface the existing eight-lane track, she said.
The 2012-13 school year starts Aug. 20 for teachers and Aug. 23 for students.