Seniors at Dundalk High School talk about the opportunity to play at their new stadium — something they thought may not happen before graduation. (Katherine Dunn, Baltimore Sun video)
The senior athletes at Dundalk High School were beginning to think they would never get to play in a stadium on their campus before they graduated.
Their new school building, now three years old, stands on the site of the old Dundalk stadium, but construction on the new stadium wasn't completed until late this summer. For four years, the Owls have played all of their football games, and some other games, at nearby CCBC-Dundalk.
"It was a process that was taking so long," said Tavaughn Johnson, a receiver and cornerback on the football team. "Finally, our 11th-grade year they was like we might play on it our senior year, so it's great for us."
Owls quarterback Duron Ball said of the delay, "It's a blessing in disguise."
The new stadium hosted its first varsity game Tuesday, a girls soccer game won by the Owls 12-1 over Owings Mills, and it will be dedicated Friday night before Dundalk's undefeated football team takes the field against Lansdowne.
"Now everybody has a field to play on," said senior soccer player Mackenzie Riddle, "and we don't have to go over to the college anymore to use their field and share their field, so it's like it brings us together."
Players and administrators said a stadium makes a difference for the school community and also for the wider Dundalk community.
"To have a stadium is great," Ball said." It's great for the community. It's a great environment. Hopefully, they open it up to the youth programs and give them an opportunity to play. I feel as though Dundalk is on the rise. It's great -- new school, new stadium."
Football coach Sean Sandora said all of his players are excited about playing their home season opener Friday night.
"They've never been able to walk out of their locker room and walk right to the field and then at halftime, walk back in if they needed too," he said. "We played a scrimmage there and it was a great feeling and a good atmosphere. It was good to have the community out there."
"There's a sense of school spirit that we can display in the stadium because it's ours," Anelli said. "We have a banner that the alumni association is donating that we're going to be able to hang up on the fence that designates it as Dundalk. We'll have our own concession stand and our own alumni area. It's ours, a place that we can call our home as opposed to feeling like a visitor really, because even if it's just across the street, we're still visitors on their field."
The field is natural grass for this year but will be replaced with artificial turf over the summer for next fall. Maki said once the turf is in, he hopes to resurrect the field hockey team.
It doesn't make a huge difference to the other teams.
"I was hoping to get turf," Riddle said, "but I'm happy we actually get to play on it my senior year so that's all that matters."
Friday's dedication ceremony will begin at 5:15 p.m. and is expected to include many local politicians as well as Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger. Former county councilman John Olszewski Sr., who Anelli said was instrumental in getting the new school building, will also be on hand.