On Saturday, September 24, Oyster River High School hosted the official opening of its new 1.5 million dollar multi-sport venue.
Hundreds of members from the Oyster River community came throughout the day to show their appreciation and support of the nearly-finished product and teams playing on it. To kick things off, Assistant Superintendent Todd Allen spoke to a crowd about the project, and School Board Chair Tom Newkirk cut a ceremonial ribbon. It has been a project years in the making, but despite the official opening, there is still work to be done to make everyone satisfied.
The day was loaded with seven games, spanning from immediately after the opening ceremony at 10 am, to past 9 pm. “We were on the field with approximately 300 athletes throughout the day,” says ORHS athletic director Corey Parker, “we could never have pulled that off on our grass field a year ago.”
Every team had already played at least one game on the turf prior to this official opening day, and because of this may have been more comfortable with the surface as they battled it out against teams from four different towns across New Hampshire. “[The field] increases our speed of play, which is nice because we’re more of a skillful team, and overall it suits our team well” says Girls’ soccer defender Sierra Carpenter (‘17).
Following the opening ceremony, Unified Soccer drew with Spaulding 2-2, and Girls’ Field Hockey was beaten by Portsmouth 7-0. The most popular events of the day were the night games in which the Varsity Boys’ and Girls’ soccer teams both notched one-goal wins, against Saint Thomas Aquinas and Goffstown, respectively. The seven consecutive games throughout the day showed off one of the many benefits the new turf field offers, it’s durability. In the past, one game would completely wear out the grass field, and make the conditions worse for a following game or practice. “I like on the turf field we can have back-to-back games, which is really fun because it can be a whole outing for all the [fans],” said Carpenter, “you can tailgate before and stay for the games after.”
I like on the turf field we can have back-to-back games, which is really fun because it can be a whole outing for all the [fans]
Boys’ soccer captain Anson Thibault enjoyed the action-packed event, “It was cool to be able to stay before and after to see our [school’s] other teams play,” he said. Thibault played in the boy’s varsity game, and watched the girls’ game later. Thibault is one of many who have noticed changes in the atmosphere at games, both positive and negative. “The atmosphere among the players is much better, because we have this gorgeous field and we love playing on it,” he said, “but it’s a little different for the fans, because it’s harder to cheer because you’re farther away and the players don’t exactly feel it as much.”
As Thibault pointed out, the main dilemma with the new facility is how to optimize the experience for spectators. Self-proclaimed member of the Oyster River ‘Super Fan’ Group, Brennen Oxford, was critical of the experience for fans. “It really took the fans out of the atmosphere of the game, but it was nice because you could sit there all day and they’d have games,” Oxford said, “It’ll be much cooler when we have stands.”
The sports fields have been very well received by the community, but for some there seems to be a missing piece. There was not enough money in the budget for the project to build bleachers where fans could enjoy the games. Currently, the school is fundraising to be able to install new stands. “It’s a process, raising 171,000 dollars isn’t easy,” Parker states, “having said that I think people are starting to realize the need for it now, so hopefully they’ll financially want to back the project.”
To donate to the athletic facilities project, visit http://www.orbobcats.com, or contact the ORHS front office.
Girls’ soccer is back on the turf against St. Thomas on Wednesday afternoon, while Field Hockey, Unified soccer, and Boys’ soccer don’t see home action for two weeks.
Writers: Zach Leichtman and Spencer Clark
Photographer: Zach Leichtman