High school football is much more than just a sport. In a lot of communities across the country, it’s a common bond that spans generations. It’s an activity that brings whole towns and cities together. It’s a way for young people to live out their dreams. It inspires feelings of hope, happiness, pride, celebration and community.
I know a little about what I just described. Northern Ohio — where I’m from and where I live today — is known for being a high school football hotbed. There are big-time schools that are ranked among the nation’s best. It’s a regular occurrence for athletes in the area to be recruited by the top programs in college football. People are passionate about the schools they support; fan bases are large, dedicated and loud. Not to mention there are several sparkling, brand-new and large venues that host the games. You get the picture – northern Ohio is serious when it comes to high school football.
With all that being said, it still has a ways to go to catch south Texas. I learned this firsthand in late September while traveling to San Antonio. On this trip, I had the pleasure of visiting Alamo Stadium, a state-of-the-art high school football, soccer and track venue that has a seating capacity of around 20,000, making it one of the largest in the country for high school sports.
Alamo Stadium – built in 1940 – is owned and operated by the San Antonio Independent School District.
Just for football alone, 15 area middle schools and seven area high schools call it home. The saying “Everything’s bigger in Texas” certainly holds true at this expansive structure. It was quite a site for a first-timer like me.
It also goes without saying that the wheels are kept turning at this venue (and at all high school athletic venues in the U.S.) by its dedicated grounds staff.
Alamo Stadium’s synthetic turf surface was installed in August 2014 by Fort Worth, Texas-based Paragon Sports Constructors and is a Desso iDNA-x surface. It’s cared for mainly by groundskeeper Javier Gutierrez and head custodian Beatrice Guerrero. Gutierrez has been working at the facility for six years; Guerrero 24 years.
“Whoever comes in here, there’s definitely a ‘Wow!’ factor involved,” says Gerald Gonzalez, assistant athletic director with San Antonio ISD. “People who come here don’t see the hours that are put into it; they don’t see the people behind the scenes. We’re very fortunate to have two great people (Gutierrez and Guerrero) working for us.”
Alamo Stadium sees a very high amount of annual use, including hundreds of football and soccer games, track meets, regional tournaments and even a Battle of the Bands event, which is held there annually during the area Fiesta celebration.
Alamo Stadium also hosts various sports camps and other events. It can be a challenge for the staff to turn the stadium around between various events, for example in April when a large area track meet is scheduled for the morning after the Battle of the Bands event. But for the stadium’s staff, it’s all worthwhile when the kids step on the field to play.
“It makes me feel good to hear people say how beautiful it is here,” Gutierrez says. “It gives me a positive attitude when I come to work.”
Guerrero agrees. “I hear kids tell coaches ‘Wow, I’ve never played on a field like this!'” she says. “That makes us feel very good.”
Alamo Stadium also features a gigantic Daktronics digital scoreboard, with video display, that’s approximately 44 feet wide and 24 feet tall. “The kids feel like they’re in the NFL with that scoreboard,” Gonzalez says (proudly).
The bottom line is this: Whether it’s Texas, Ohio, or any other area, the groundskeepers, coaches and staff members that maintain our nation’s high school athletic facilities deserve a round of applause.
Several rounds, actually.
Without them, these facilities — let’s call them invaluable, treasured community assets — wouldn’t be what they are.