Chaminade High School already has the Dugo Dome, the House of Noise, the AAC (Activities and Athletic Center), so the question is, what will the new moniker for the 1,800-seat bleachers the Mineola-based private Catholic high school is currently building? Chami-stadium and Flyer Stadium were two entries found on Twitter. For right now “The Stadium at Ott Field” is what school president Bro. Thomas Cleary, S.M. is calling the $1 million improvement to the north side of the football field.
Demolition on the old bleachers began on August 12, but planning for the improvement started in September 2012. The construction is projected to be complete in January 2014.
“People expect on our campus first-rate facilities and the stands that were were currently there have been there since 1979 or so and they served its purpose but over the years we just kept getting bigger crowds,” Bro. Cleary said.
Crowds were especially large when the school would host arch-rival St. Anthony’s and Uniondale-based sister school Kellenberg Memorial. Home fans would usually crowd into several temporary bleachers which were rolled onto the south side of the track surrounding Ott Field which would take time for maintenance crews to transport across Jericho Turnpike on game day. Visiting fans would crowd into the several rows of the antiquated bleachers.
“We decided that with all the games we have and alumni events that we host in the backfield, putting a whole new stadium seating up that can seat 1,800, which will be plenty of room for us,” Bro. Cleary said.
The new structure would seat a total of 1,800 shoulder-to-shoulder on bench seating and would feature a new press box. Underneath the new bleachers will be expanded lavatory facilities, are desperately needed according to Bro. Cleary, a concession area, and 7,500 sq. ft. in basement storage for athletic and maintenance storage. There are several contractors on the project, one for demolition, one for the building and one for the bleachers.
“The basement underneath it was an afterthought, we just realized we’re going to regret it 10 years from now not having put it in a 4,000 sq. ft. basement,” he said.
The five-month demolition and construction however, will affect the upcoming football and soccer seasons, with the school planning to use the portable stands for home games to house both sets of fans.
“Finding the right time when we had four months, five months, to get this project done was just not going to happen in the spring,” Bro. Cleary said. “Winter we couldn’t start it, the spring we use it, summer we have camps around, we didn’t want demo when there’s camps around, so we wanted to wait until the camps just ended now to do the demolition which is the messy work, things falling, stuff like that.”
“we knew that one season was going to have to bite the bullet and people were just going to have to deal with it, deal with the pinch. There was no free time for five months where somebody was not going to feel the pain.”
The school is scheduled to open the season at home on September 7 against Kellenberg, with the following week’s matchup against Iona Prep to also be alumni weekend – another large event. Bro. Cleary said that the school may host one of the larger home games at nearby Mitchel Field or use a different track for running events. Cleary said that the school’s biggest crowd for an athletic event is usually about 1,300.
The village had to approve the plans for the new bleachers according to Bro. Cleary, but the school did not have to obtain a variance because it was just replacing an existing structure. The back field closest to Jericho Turnpike will also be re-turfed when construction on the bleachers is completed. The school estimates that it will permanently lose about 6-ft. of that backfield when construction is complete.
“We were able to keep it really compacted, we went up higher... but what we’re going to gain is such an asset to the school,” Cleary said.
Chaminade will also be switching the main entrance to the bleachers from its current entrance on Emory Road to Saville Road, bringing it closer to the parking lots next to the athletic center and on the north side of Jericho Turnpike.
“Out of consideration for the neighbors on Emory, we understand (the parking situation),” Bro. Cleary said.
Many Mineola residents in the neighborhood have voiced their concern on weekends for parking on residential streets and in front of homes during game days.
Once the school finishes construction of the new stands, it will remove the portable bleachers and free up about 40 additional spaces in the lot north of Jericho Turnpike across from the athletic center.
“The stands, we’ve just grown bigger than them,” Bro. Cleary said. “We’re not bringing more people into the games, we’re just accommodating the same crowds we have in the stands and in the four portable stands and standing on the sidewalk, we can now have them all seated in the same area with proper bathroom facilities and all that stuff.”