El Donaldson Stadium

A rendition of the new-look El Donaldson Stadium is shown. The facility at Bowling Green High School is set to be renovated following the 2020 football season.

Last year marked 50 seasons of Bowling Green football at El Donaldson Stadium.

Soon, the Purples’ facility will undergo a major facelift.

Bowling Green Independent School District superintendent Gary Fields tweeted a rendition of a renovated El Donaldson Stadium – which celebrated its 50th season last fall, according to Fields – after Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting where the third phase of the district’s construction project was approved.

“I think it’s one of those next steps that kids can get excited about,” Fields said. “... I think there’s a classic feel to our football stadium, but at the same time – we got the new scoreboard a couple of years ago – it was time to update and kind of get everybody excited about the next 30 or 40 or 50 years of Bowling Green High football.”

The project is set to begin the Monday following the conclusion of the 2020 football season with a total cost of $6,255,000, according to Fields, and the plan is set to be completed by Aug. 1, 2021, in order to have about a month before the Purples’ first home game. He said the plan involves adding a turf field which can also be used for soccer, adding an eight-lane rubber track – the facility currently only has seven lanes – LED lighting, permanent bleachers on the visitors’ side and new bleachers and press box on the home side, which will also include a new bathroom and concession area.

The new bleachers will be handicap accessible and will have rails on the steps. It was not handicap accessible before, according to Fields, which was one of the main reasons they felt the project needed to be done.

“Really, not a lot of renovations have been done,” Fields said. “One of the reasons we desperately need to get this done is the stadium is a concrete stadium, it’s a great view once you hike up those steps – it’s a workout – but those stands are not handicap accessible.

“ ... The press box is in rough shape. Very little has been done to that. It’s one of those things that once you start working on it, then you have to update it and it was going to basically require the whole thing to be redone. That’s why we had to wait until we had enough funding to do that.”

The project is Phase 3 of the overall rebuild of Bowling Green High School. Phase one included adding new space for the freshman LEAD Academy; the Medical Arts Academy; English, math, social studies, science, special education and English language learners departments; as well as band, choir and orchestra classrooms. Phase two was recently started, and includes additional classrooms, a new 700-seat auditorium and auxiliary gym and a replacement for the school’s natatorium. Phase three also includes work on parking areas. The fourth phase will include work on common student spaces, a media center and administrative offices, and is slated to be completed August 2023.

The phase three renovations will allow Bowling Green to host more significant track meets.

“We have a really outstanding track and field program, and the inability to ever host a significant meet with the kind of talent we had on the track was frustrating to all, so I hope our runners and sprinters and distance kids and field event kids get excited about that too, because I think that program has been really successful and I think can take even a bigger step with the facilities we’re going to have,” Fields said.

It’s a project Bowling Green football coach Mark Spader was happy to see approved, after significant planning and several trips to see other facilities. He’s also happy to see some of the headaches that come with wear and tear on the field alleviated with the new “first-class surface.”

“I just always thought, ‘Heck, it’s a football stadium and there’s bleachers,’ but a lot of thought went into what we were choosing to put with our field. I think it’s needed,” Spader said. “I love our old stadium, particularly in the winter when we’re having offseason conditioning. I don’t think there’s much that can replace us running up and down that old concrete stadium, but I think it’s going to be a really fresh look.”

Fields said the school is planning events to relive El Donaldson Stadium’s special moments, but no plans are set because of scheduling changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, the KHSAA Board of Control approved a plan to leave fall sports in the fall season, pushing back the start of practice to Aug. 24 in cross country, field hockey, football, soccer and volleyball. The first competition in football was moved from Aug. 21 to Sept. 11.

Bowling Green is scheduled to play its first two games on the road at Pleasure Ridge Park and St. Xavier, before its home opener with Corbin on Sept. 25. The schedule also features a home contest with South Warren on Oct. 2, a home game with Greenwood on Oct. 23 and a newly-added home game with Hopkinsville on Nov. 6.

“I’m an older coach and I’ve kind of grown up in that stadium, so it’s kind of tough. I have a tough time saying goodbye to things like that. I like our stadium,” Spader said. “Our facilities people do a tremendous job of creating a great game-night atmosphere. It’s a beautiful place to play and there have been memorable, memorable games played there, but at the same time, it’s nice to have some new things.

“ ... It will be tough and that’s part of really wanting to play this season as well. We have a tremendous senior class that I expect big things out of, but this theoretically is the last season in our stadium here. I certainly hope we get to play the schedule that’s been laid out in the last couple days so we can give it a proper send-off as we head off into the new project.”{&end}

– Follow sports reporter Jared MacDonald on Twitter @JMacDonaldSport or visit bgdailynews.com.

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