Friday, January 28, 2022 | 4:52 p.m.
Aliquippa’s aging football stadium will be demolished and rebuilt this year with a little help from the NFL.
The school recently received a $250,000 grant from the NFL Foundation, said Aliquippa Superintendent Phillip Woods, who also hopes to solicit donations from other organizations. The school district has also secured $3.5 million in funding in recent months to make the construction project a reality.
Built in the 1930s and named after former coach Carl A. Aschman, the stadium affectionately known as “The Pit” has deteriorated in recent decades, forcing the school to condemn sections of concrete bleachers into ruined.
Woods said the district plans to demolish the concrete grandstands and replace them with metal bleachers and convert the playing surface from grass to artificial turf. Light towers and goal posts will be replaced and a video scoreboard will be added, he said.
Work could start in February or March.
“It will be more than a new look,” Woods said. “We are totally tearing it down and rebuilding it.”
The school was forced to close nearly half of its home bleachers last season due to crumbling concrete. The seats on the visitors’ side of the pitch had already been closed for years.
The stadium is one of the most historic in western Pennsylvania and was home to three Pro Football Hall of Fame players, but Woods said time has passed.
“We have enough memories of the old place,” said Woods, who was a linebacker on Aliquippa’s 1991 state championship team. to come up. The game has evolved. Times have changed. We love the grass surface, but it just didn’t give us what we needed.
The work likely won’t be finished until the fall, so the football team would play its regular-season home games at another school’s field, if necessary.
Stadium rental is not new to the school. Aliquippa used a nearby stadium to host playoff games whenever weather or wear and tear made its grass surface unplayable at the end of the season.
The new stadium could be ready by playoff time.
“We’re hoping to put together a few playoff games,” Woods said, “if we get the chance.”
The football stadium remained a problem for school administrators for years. Woods, who graduated from Aliquippa in 1994, was hired as superintendent at his alma mater in July, and the stadium was on his short list of projects.
“The first thing I had to do was make sure the educational structures were solid,” he said, “in terms of the roof, the heating, the air conditioning, the technology, the curriculum. Once that I was sure those things were in place, I knew that my next element would be to attack the stadium. I was very lucky to put the pieces together with my team and make that possible.
Woods said the project gained momentum when the district restructured its bonds last fall, creating $3.5 million in available funding.
“We looked at some of our finances and restructured because we got better bond ratings,” Woods said. “We could keep our bills the same and put that energy into the stadium.”
The stadium project received a $25,000 grant earlier this month from The Wilson Group, a business solutions and office equipment company in Pittsburgh.
Woods is optimistic that other donors will follow.
This was the second year in a row that Aliquippa had applied for a $250,000 grant from the NFL Foundation Core Curriculum. The grants are given to select schools nationwide and require recipients to match the funds donated, a stipulation the district couldn’t meet a year ago, Woods said.
“Because we were able to get that $3.5 million bond refinanced, we were able to show the NFL that we had the money,” he said. “That extra $250,000 will be good for some upgrades.”