Elmira High School set to formally open new Athletic Complex
ELMIRA, N.Y. (WENY) - Construction is wrapping up on Elmira High School's new athletic complex, which is set to formally open on Friday night.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place during halftime of the homecoming football game between the Elmira Express and the Union-Endicott Tigers. The gates open at 6:00 P.M. The Booster Club will be hosting a tailgate prior to the game, where fans will be able to enjoy food trucks, bounce houses, and other activities.
The complex will recognize the history of high school athletics in Elmira, being re-dedicated as Thomas Hurley Stadium, with the field named after Dick Senko. Thomas J. Hurley was a well-known wrestling and football coach at Southside High School. Dick Senko coached football at Elmira Free Academy. The two schools merged in 2014 to become Elmira High School, and have not had an on-campus stadium since. Head football coach Jimmy McCauley says his team will play anywhere, but the new stadium will be a way to bring both the team and the community together.
"We'll play in a parking lot, we'll play on a track, turf, grass," McCauley said. "We've got guys who want to play football, period. And these guys come with that lunch-pale mentality of they're willing to stay, they're willing to put in the extra time. There is not one that complains, there is not one that we'll coach...everybody is willing to stay as long as they need to and they're able to work. When we open the stadium under the lights and have community support, I think that's just phenomenal for these young kids."
The field includes the number 44 on either side of the center-field school logo to pay tribute to Elmira native and football legend Ernie Davis. Davis' dominance on the field earned him the nickname "The Express", which Elmira High School athletic teams have adopted as their nickname. Superintendent Hillary J. Austin said that the stadium is a representation of the community.
"I think it's really exciting for our community," Austin explained. "It culminates the Elmira Express becoming the Elmira Express. So, I think it's a really important moment in time and an opportunity for us to celebrate The Express and the program and what it means to us."
Other stadium features include a video board, press box, and color-changing lights. Athletic Director Zack Lloyd said it's those kinds of additions that make student-athletes feel like they're playing at the next level.
"When I first started, it was spring of last year, we were cutting JV lacrosse games short, just because we didn't have the lighting and stuff like that at the stadium in order to do something like that," Lloyd said. "So for our student-athletes, it really provides them with state-of-the-art facilities that some of the other high schools in the area have now. And I know they're ready to get going."
The new stadium adds to the excitement and anticipation Elmira football players feel for the upcoming season.
"It's going to be amazing, all of us are super excited about it! We can't wait," said C.J. Brink, a senior nose-guard and guard for the Express. "We're putting in a lot of effort, a lot of energy. We're expecting to have a really great season."
Brady Keefe, a senior running back and linebacker for the Express, agrees.
"Our guys are fired up and ready to go, excited to get started," Keefe said. "Section Four title, that's always our goal. Just keep showing up to practice, keep putting in the work and I think we have a good chance at it this year."
The first game on the new field will be played on Thursday evening, when Elmira girls soccer hosts Horseheads, with the formal opening on Friday.