The sight of the Belleville West Maroons wearing their road whites for a game at old Township Stadium never failed to put a pit in the stomachs of students and alumni.
Especially when the Maroons played the Althoff Crusaders.
In alternating years, their boosters would blanket that classic retro-looking sign above the press box with blue-and-gold crepe paper and pretend the stadium on our campus belonged to them.
Then again, as the legendary football coach Glenn Schott reminded me, Althoff has played as many games on that field as anybody since it first put a football team on the field. He’s too much a gentleman to argue, as he could, that the Crusaders have made the best use of the home-field advantage with their three state championships and two second place finishes in the last four years.
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“Township Stadium was a great place for a high school football game because the fans were right on top of you,” Schott said. “At the same time, we never really had a place of our own. A new athletic facility and football stadium would complete Althoff High School.”
Township Stadium now is the candy-striped home of the Lindenwood-Belleville Lynx and most of the original edifice is gone. It is, indeed, about time the Crusaders have a home that is all their own.
Thanks to some parents, alumni and an aggressive capital campaign that will kick off this fall, they will. They have set a $2.5 million goal to fund construction of a new multi-use outdoor stadium behind the school.
If all goes as planned, the artificial turf field will be encircled with an eight-lane all-weather track, a grandstand for 1,500 spectators and (I hope) a very large, climate-controlled pressbox with reliable internet access (hint). There also will be a concession stand and modern restrooms.
In the spirit of the old Township Stadium, it also would be appropriate to set aside a few extra bucks for a retro sign above the press box declaring “Home of the Crusaders.” But that’s just one sports writer’s humble proposal.
It's not so much just what you see from the outside. To the metro-east Catholic community and to the surrounding Belleville community, it says that Althoff is here and here it will remain. We want to bring our athletes home.
Glenn Schott, former Althoff football coach
At any rate, it will be the Crusaders’ first on-campus home since in the history of its storied program. That alone will make it special.
If success of the athletic program is really a factor, now is a good time for the capital committee to launch a campaign.
The basketball team brought home the city’s first state championship just last month, a year after finishing runner-up. Ken Turner’s football team is fresh off a record breaking season and one of those second-place finishes.
But this isn’t all about wins and losses. Althoff has the need, the resources and the tradition.
More than that, as Schott once against reminds us, the fund-raising effort and the stadium itself will be a monument to school’s stability and future.
“It’s not so much just what you see from the outside,” said Coach Schott, whose name should adorn the new facility in some way. “To the metro-east Catholic community and to the surrounding Belleville community, it says that Althoff is here and here it will remain.
“We want to bring our athletes home.”
One final proposal: when Belleville’s generous donors and Althoff alumni pull this off, how about a revival of the Maroons-Crusaders intra-city rivalry? And, just once, how about the Crusaders wear their road whites at home?