A view of the current visitors locker room under Eggerss Stadium. The home locker room is in the S. F. Goedde building.
By John White
Editor’s note: This is the fifth and final in a series of articles detailing the plans to renovate Eggerss Stadium.
Recently I visited Eggerss Stadium on a crisp and breezy fall day. Being the only one in the stadium, I took a seat on the fifty-yard line and used the opportunity to reflect on Van Wert Cougar Football that only could be accomplished with vivid imagination.
I closed my eyes and saw Gilbert “Gil” Smith coaching on the sideline with his low-key flair along with thousands of cheering fans. Smith, the winningest coach in Cougar history, amassed a record of 130-30-10 during the 40s and 50s. I imagined Willie Hernandez zigging and zagging as he took the ball 80 yards to the house in the 1950s.
I imagined other Cougar standouts such as Jim Young on the field who went on to become a Hall Of Fame college coach, as well as players like Pat Jackson in the 1980s, Joel Penton in the 2000s, and Owen Treece in 2020. The Van Wert community has enjoyed a long and memorable Cougar football experience spanning decades which includes our most recent successes with a state championship in 2020 and a WBL Championship in 2021.
So too has Eggerss Stadium had a successful run. The first game at Eggerss was played on September 18, 1936. To quote the Excalibur published in 1937, it reads “The 1937 Graduating Class of Van Wert High School will long be remembered as the class that graduated in the first year of the new Stadium Era.” Don’t you just love that? It’s so easy to simply take the stadium for granted. But now our community can enjoy a new and improved Stadium Era going forward.
The 1937 Excalibur goes on to say about the stadium, “It is also of great value to the community for such events as the Peony Festival.” We certainly had people with great vision, a vision that can be continued with our renovation project supported by our community of today.
As promised, I want to spend some time discussing two more areas that will be included in the renovation. From the outside, our press box looks pretty decent. It has new windows, a new paint job, and a new state championship banner. However, the inside is another story. It’s cramped, cold, and uninviting. It’s basic at best with little to offer but a small shelf to act as a table and a few stools and antiquated chairs. Believe it or not, the press box was enlarged years ago to its present size.
There is so much improvement that can be gained through a renovation. The press box will be moved back to accommodate additional handicap seating. This means opportunity for the press box in terms of better seating, table space, communications, and state-of-the-art equipment. Remember, Eggerss Stadium will be upgraded to serve the community for more than just football. It’s an important consideration when the plans are finalized.
The other area of focus is the locker rooms. For years, we’ve had one locker room under the stadium. Early on, it was the Cougar locker room. Today, the visitor’s locker room is under the stadium and the Cougar locker room is in the S. F. Goedde building. While the current Cougar locker room is top-notch, there is a huge advantage to getting it back where the action is. Historically, spaces tended to be smaller. With a proper plan, both locker rooms can exist under the stadium and can be well-appointed, highly functional, in a great location, with an all-new look and feel including new showers. In fact, we’ll likely save the lockers used in the S.F. Goedde Building for use going forward. I can’t wait to see the outcome!
When considering a project of this size and magnitude, where does the Van Wert City Schools Administration stand? Superintendent Mark Bagley is 100 percent behind the renovation efforts and so is the Van Wert school board. Anthony Adams, President of the Van Wert City Schools Board of Education recently stated, “The Van Wert City School Board is prepared to move forward with a solution to the challenge of renovating Eggerss Stadium. There is palpable energy throughout Van Wert right now and the proposed project will only serve to enhance that energy. Athletic success, economic development, attractive interest rates, and the Van Wert Forward project all make this the right time to unite the Van Wert community to accomplish something truly special.”
Adams went on to say, “The Board of Education does not take placing an issue before the voters lightly. A lot of discussion and analysis has gone into finding the best path to finance the project. With the community’s help, we can renovate this unique structure and create the premier downtown stadium venue in all of Northwest Ohio. A renovated Eggerss Stadium will allow for a wealth of additional uses, providing benefits for all Van Wert community stakeholders for decades to come.”
This wraps up the series of articles about the Eggerss Stadium preservation. Our community has something very special here. I hope you, as a reader, can appreciate what we have. No doubt, there is work to be done. However, our stadium renovation initiative is very doable.
Eggerss Stadium and Van Wert: Unique and United!
To read the previous articles in this series, click the links:
Eggerss Stadium: A Van Wert Legacy published October 11, 2021
Friday Night Lights at Eggerss Stadium: Traditions Old and New published October 22, 2021
Eggerss Stadium: A Jewel From the Past, a Gem for the Future published November 3, 2021
Eggerss Stadium: It's Time! published November 17, 2021