By Ozie Davis III MS, JD
Herald Sports Editor
It was a festive halftime ribbon cutting ceremony officially that opened the new Willard R. Stargel Stadium at 501 Ezzard Charles Drive on Friday, September 13, with the Robert A. Taft High School Senators defeating the Withrow High School Tigers 27 to 26 in the first game in the new facility. The Withrow and Taft marching bands also performed.
The new $10 million outdoor complex will host football, track and field competitions, extracurricular and club activities, including Taft High School’s Drone Club. The new stadium was funded by FC Cincinnati soccer club to replace for former Stargel Stadium at the back of Taft High School where the new soccer stadium is being constructed.
The 3,000-seat facility is the home field for six football teams: Aiken, Hughes, Riverview, Shroder, Gamble and Taft high schools. Fans will also notice a new video scoreboard, while players will have access to a new weight room and locker rooms.
Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Laura Mitchell, CPS Board of Education members, Josh Hardin, CPS athletic director and Jason Stargel, representing the Stargel family, were present for the dedication ceremony.
Working with the Cincinnati Police Department, CPS decided to move the game time up to 5 p.m., instead of the regular 7:30 p.m. start, to reduce any chance of negative altercations among youth. There was also the additional presence of community monitors organized by Iris Roley and the Reverend Damon Lynch III and Taft alumni organized by Dewayne Harmon to roam the stadium keeping a handle of the hyped environment.
Fans were greeted with free T-shirts, free towels, free cotton candy, Kona Ice and Skyline Chili served up free Coney’s. Withrow’s Band performed pregame keeping the crowd excited. Many commented about how large the stadium is (it seats 3,000) and how “awesome” the video scoreboard is.
Willard R. Stargel Jr. graduated in 1940 from Woodward High School. He was voted All League and a unanimous choice for All City in football. He played guard on the basketball tam that won 21 straight games before losing in the state semifinal game. He was city track and field champion in the high hurdles. He entered University of Cincinnati in 1940, where he set a record in the 440-meter intermediate hurdles that stands today after the race was changed to the 400-mter hurdles. His college years were interrupted by military service, when he served in Europe in WW II. He began his high school teaching and coaching career at Taft High School in 1955, and he went onto Walnut Hills High School in 1965 as football and wrestling coach until his retirement in 1979, He was presented with the Woodward High School medal of Honor and has been inducted in the CPS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.