Lights will shine brighter at new’ St. Al

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 15, 2000

Jim Taylor, St. Aloysius football coach, left, Assistant Principal Peter Pikul, middle, and Principal Alan Powers stand in front of Farrell Stadium’s new bleachers and lights.(The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

Two years ago, Riverside and St. Aloysius couldn’t play because the lights went out at the Delta school.

That’s not likely to happen tonight in the Flashes’ home opener.

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At least, it better not.

New lights have been installed at Farrell Stadium, which has undergone about $300,000 in improvements since last season. There are also new bleachers, a new press box, a new PA system and a new scoreboard.

“It’s very exciting. It’s my baby,” said school board president Conrad Rabalais, who oversaw all of the construction from the time it began more than a year ago. “It’s been exhausting. I plan to just sit back and enjoy it now.”

St. Al coach Jim Taylor hopes the home crowd and new facilities can inspire the 0-3 Flashes to play better.

“It can’t hurt,” he said, adding, “The improvements are just outstanding. It’s been a long time coming.”

The initial goal was to get aluminum bleachers to replace the wooden ones, which had been there since the mid-1940s, Rabalais said. The school’s capital campaign eventually expanded to include the other upgrades. There’s also new wiring, new fencing, a new roof on the concession stand and a new storage building.

But the lights are the most visible improvement.

“We got some help from Cooper Lighting with them,” Rabalais said. “We’re supposed to have one of the best-lit fields in the state.”

The new bulbs produce more than twice as much light as the old ones, which were mounted on wooden poles in front of the bleachers. The new light banks are on 80-foot metal poles behind the stands.

“The biggest difference is there are no poles in the way,” said Bill Ford, who has broadcast St. Al games on the radio for 30 years.

Fans won’t obstruct his view as much either since entrances to the wheelchair-accessible stands are on the sides, not in the middle. The old press box also had an overhang people gathered under during rain.

“The people would crowd underneath there, and I couldn’t see what was going on down on the field,” Ford recalled, laughing.

The elements won’t bother Ford inside the press box either. Unlike the old one, it has air-conditioning and heat.

“With the sun going down in the west, there would be almost unbearable heat in there, like a greenhouse,” said Ford, who called his first St. Al game in 1967. He was manager of the team in high school, 1963-67.

“It’s going to be a new experience, being cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold.”

Listeners who tune in to WQBC (1420AM) will notice a change too, Ford said.

“It’s soundproof, so there won’t be any crowd noise,” he said of the press box, which has cubicles. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it’s going to be different.”

Moving the poles and clearing out trees behind the bleachers “made the whole stadium look bigger,” said Randy Martin-Nez, president of the school’s booster club.

Ford said the high-powered lights will make his job easier.

“It will be easier to see the players’ numbers and what yard line they’re on,” he said.

Coaches say the brighter lights will make their game videotapes easier to view.

Rabalais said he doesn’t expect any problems. All of the new equipment, which was unveiled at an open house Aug. 18, went through a “dry run” at a JV game last week, he said.

There were only a couple of minor glitches that have since been cleared up, he said.

The next phase of the capital campaign is to add air conditioning in the gym, six new classrooms and a multipurpose building between St. Al and St. Francis, Rabalais said.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Ford said. “It’s just beautiful.”