Catonsville High School Principal William Heiser and nearly a dozen regional dignitaries helped the Catonsville Comet Booster Club officially open a new concession stand at Comet Park on Friday, Oct. 4.
The attractive, single-story block construction features a spacious kitchen area serving through two large windows, a separate window for spirit clothing sales, and full restrooms.
The much-anticipated facility, replacing an old concession stand nearly hidden behind the bleachers, is one step along the way in a well-defined plan, orchestrated and partially financed by the boosters, to completely renovate Comet Park and the surrounding athletic fields.
"The Comet Boosters are the best in the state," said Heiser, in his first year as the school's principal. "The immediate impact is to show the commitment of the Catonsville community. In the long term, we want to build a complete stadium…Tonight, we have alums and people whose kids are in Catonsville. Additionally, the local businesses have helped out. And, we have three Booster Club presidents and past presidents here."
The boosters began improving the stadium seven years ago The school's willingness to share the facilities with Baltimore County Recreation and Parks through a joint use agreement enabled the boosters to receive a grant to help finance installation of a turf field.
"Since we had the turf field, we wanted to upgrade the whole facility," said Beth Reymann, president of the Comet Booster Club. "We already did the scoreboard and two ticket booths.
The boosters had also contributed $10,000 for the new baseball and softball scoreboards at Comet Park, and bought the ticket booths and a new flagpole court and flags.
"We realized that we could earn more money with a new concession stand," Reymann said. "The existing concession stand did not face the field, and it was difficult to get people to volunteer to work there.
"The football program has grown. We average 1,400 to 1,800 people at the stadium for a football game, and the concession stand is a source of income for the final phase of improvements, which will be new bleachers and a press box."
Reymann also said the joint use agreement with county rec and parks: "If [the field] is not being used by one, it's being used by the other. It gets used seven days a week, all day and at night."
The new concession facility actually opened for business a week earlier on Sept. 27. The boosters can now have as many as 12 people working instead of only four in the old stand.
"We served the crowd much more efficiently," Reymann said. "We have expanded the menu but still don't have all of the equipment that we want."
"We are seeking donations," she said. "There is a master plan. It's all being done through private funding and matching grants. We received a $65,000 grant from the state, but spent close to $200,000. Dels. Jim Malone and Steve DeBoy, joined by [state] Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, sponsored the grant that helped us. Now, we want to finish the campaign to build new bleachers."
Reymann pointed to work done by former booster presidents, Sue Plitt and Kevin Beard, to obtain a $125,000 matching fund grant to complete the new project.
"We'll build the bleachers, and then we'll be done," Reymann said, "hopefully within a year."
Reymann said that booster member John Corbitt worked to involve members of the Catonsville community.
"The old concession stand was a bad situation," Corbitt said. "It is the size of a bedroom closet. And, no bathrooms, just two spot-a-pots."
"Lots of people have donated money," Corbitt said. "It's one of the coolest things, such a community effort. Even the contractor, Skip Clary of WLC Construction, is an alum … .The Catonsville connection really helped.
"I reached out to the local contractors and vendors, and was able to pull it all together."
Malone also recognized the community's efforts. "Catonsville High School is very unique in that their sports booster club could raise $190,000. They didn't come asking for anything that they didn't do themselves. Now, they are working to finish the bleachers."
Reymann, Heiser and a student representative joined Malone to cut the opening ribbon. In addition to Malone, DeBoy, and Kasemeyer, Del. Adrienne Jones, county Chief of Staff Don Mohler,school board member Mike Bowler, Maria Lowry, assistant superintendent for high schools, and Michael Sye, coordinator for county schools athletics attended the opening.
Within minutes of cutting the ribbon, eager fans queued up for snacks and cold drinks. Inside the new stand, volunteers hurried to fill the orders.
"The new facilities are more accessible," Heiser said. "And now people working in the concession stand can watch the games. This is a great group to work with."