PARKERSBURG -It was 20 years ago today…
Those iconic words from the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band soon will apply to the Erickson All-Sports Facility as it was indeed 20 years ago this month that the late Charles O. Erickson went public with his offer to donate land along old Camden Avenue for the purpose of giving Parkersburg South High School an athletic home.
The following month, a governing group, the Erickson All-Sports Facility Board of Directors was incorporated. Since that time, the Erickson All-Sports Facility has been a work in progress.
Today, it includes the athletic stadium that is the home to Parkersburg South’s football, soccer, track and cross country teams as well as an outdoor tennis complex that rivals any in West Virginia.
No one has been more involved every step of the way than Parkersburg attorney Rick Bush, who originally was elected as the president of the Erickson board of directors and remains so today.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, Bush revealed:
- The Erickson group has erased its debt. Last October, it made its last payment on the $350,000 it borrowed on the 1,100 seats it added six years ago.
- Erickson is in the process of replacing its initial all-weather track. After the Wood County Board of Education committed $600,000 to necessary repairs at Stadium Field, Bush approached the board about Erickson’s need, replacement of the track, which was becoming a liability situation. The board agreed to financially back the installation of a new track.
- Water-tight roofs have been placed in the tunnels where climate-controlled rooms will provide much-needed storage space for the football and track teams.
- When Rick Leach became the athletics director at South, he made it a top priority to improve the dressing rooms at the facility. Last year, the home locker room was expanded. Now, the priority is an adequate locker room for the visiting team, which always has been a bone of contention.
- Erickson never has been a favorite of the referees who worked games there as they were forced to dress in a meeting room next to the concession stand. Work is progressing on a more modern and private area for the officials.
- Any future plans to install an artificial surface or additional seating at the stadium are on hold. Bush said there are no major fundraising plans for either of those projects in the near future. Bush said the group has $8,000 in an artificial turf fund, but with the cost of that project estimated at $700,000, well, you do the math. Plus, given the current level of support for high school sports events, additional seating simply is not necessary or a future priority.
- Funding continues to come in from a variety of sources. The West Virginia State Legislature awarded Erickson an $18,000 Community Participation Grant in December, a project Bush said was spearheaded by Delegate Dan Poling. The group also received $7,500 from the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation as well as an additional $1,000 when Bush was named one of that group’s Community Cornerstone’s for his long-time dedication to the project.
- The group raises between $70,000 and $80,000 per year thanks to its signage, parking, concessions and donations from Bureau of Public Debt employees through a federal checkoff system.
- The 50-cent surcharge on ticket sales at Erickson raises between $6,000 to $10,000 per year. The group submits invoices for the money and uses it for its most immediate needs.
- The Wood County Board of Education is responsible for the maintenance of the facility. The grass at the stadium is maintained by a private contractor.