YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The Youngstown City Schools will spend the next two years improving its athletic and physical activity programs including a big change to one of the city’s most historic sports sites.
For nearly a century Rayen Stadium has been a grass field. Soon it will be artificial turf.
“This field should be done at the beginning of the year for football,” said Youngstown Schools CEO Justin Jennings.
Jennings showed the renderings of the new field at Rayen Stadium on Tuesday afternoon– how the natural grass will be replaced with synthetic turf with Youngstown printed in both end zones and the stem of the Y at midfield listing all six of the city’s original high schools.
“We wanted to make sure we honored those schools that were here before,” said Jennings.
The first football game was played at Rayen Stadium in 1924 — that’s 98 years ago. A high school football purist might consider a change to artificial turf to be sacrilegious.
“You know some people feel that way. I personally don’t,” said Assion.
Mark Assion is East High’s head football coach. East plays its home games at Rayen.
“Oh, I was ecstatic. It’s great for our kids. It’s great for our students, our scholar-athletes to be able to participate on such a wonderful surface. It’s such a historic building — Rayen Stadium. It’s going to be awesome,” said Assion.
“I’ve gotten a lot of push since I’ve been here about not having a music program,” said Jennings.
Jennings envisions using Rayen for marching band competitions.
“My first football game I came there were three people in the band. It was one person who was sitting in the chair who was playing the drums who happen to be the band teacher and two people playing the horns. It’s definitely something that we need. We want to make sure that we push the arts,” said Jennings.
Also getting synthetic turf will be the practice fields at East and Chaney — along with the field behind MLK Elementary School — which will be used for middle school football and a soccer program starting next year at the middle school level.
Jennings also showed drawings of enclosed turf playgrounds that will be built at all eight elementary schools.
“I think it will definitely help us with a recruitment tool to get more students back. Having facilities in order for them to be able to participate in,” said Jennings.
New baseball and softball fields will also be built behind East with synthetic turf outfields. There will also be a new track built at Chaney.
The total cost of all the improvements will be $7.8 million some of which come from COVID relief money and some from money put aside for improvements.