SALEM - The Salem Preservation Society's Reilly Wall Committee remains about $20,000 short of its goal of $170,000, but construction is expected to begin this summer on the replica of the stadium's north wall and ticket booth.
Besides the wall and ticket booth, both to be built on the west side of Reilly Stadium, the project will include an area referred to as Dedication Park where trees and benches and pavers engraved with the names of Salem High School alumni, friends and supporters will greet visitors.
The quest to rebuild the wall has been a long haul for committee members, who started fundraising efforts more than two-and-a-half years ago with an ambitious plan to tear down the original north wall, which was crumbling, and rebuild it brick by brick.
Standing from left, Salem Reilly Wall project architect David Sommers, Salem Preservation Society President Keith Berger, Reilly Project Committee member David Schwartz, and seated, Reilly Project Committee member JeanAlice Fehr, look over drawings for the project slated to begin construction this summer. Not pictured are committee member Karen Carter and Salem school board member Steve Bailey. (Photo provided by Salem Preservation Society)
"As a gift to Salem, the Salem Preservation Society's main focus and goal for the Reilly Project was to recreate the wall and ticket booth at Reilly Stadium, one of Salem's most cherished historic landmarks," Reilly Project Committee member Karen Carter said.
They had the blessing of the school board and worked closely with the board as the project progressed. Original plans had a much higher price tag, but with the north wall along Pershing Street becoming a danger, the school board itself decided to take down the wall in January 2012 and put up a temporary fence.
Last summer, new plans were unveiled by the SPS Reilly Wall Committee and school board member Steve Bailey after the project was tweaked. The school board agreed to take care of replacing the north wall, using a design which required less brick and some ornamental fencing with a wrought iron-like gate. The project included replacement of a section of wall behind the band shell on the east side of the stadium.
The school board wall project was finished not long ago. Now the SPS project is slated to begin in late May or early June, hopefully to be finished in late August or September.
"We're so happy," Carter said. "It's been an interesting journey. We've had surprises and disappointments along the way."
She said they were appreciative of all the help they've received from Bailey, who is a member of the school board's Buildings and Grounds committee. She said they've really enjoyed working with him.
They were especially appreciative of all the alumni and friends and every single person who donated to the project, including memorial contributions made in honor of people who had passed away. One of the biggest contributions came from the Salem Community Foundation, which committed $34,500 to pay for the ticket booth replica.
SPS President Keith Berger, in a press release about the project, said they were "really excited about moving forward after two-and-half years of raising awareness and funds to make this project happen. We have been extremely fortunate to have had hundreds of SHS alumni and friends of Salem purchase pavers, benches and trees for the Dedication Park area."
The press release noted that Reilly Stadium has been a landmark in Salem for 85 years and a place to meet where both sports history and political history was made by the likes of four-time Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens and future President John F. Kennedy.
People can still become part of the history at the stadium by purchasing a paver, but time is limited to order. Pavers can also be used to memorialize a fellow classmate, relative, group or organization.
Pavers 4x8 are $100 and 8x8 are $150, with one 24x24 paver remaining for $1,000. Checks should be made out to the Salem Preservation Society, with Reilly Project written on the memo line and the check mailed to: Salem Preservation Society, P.O. Box 1034, Salem, Ohio 44460. Trees and benches are sold out.
The SPS also still has large historic Reilly North Wall bricks available for $15 each, recovered from the original wall.
For information about SPS or the Reilly Wall project, go to the SPS website at www.salempreservationsociety.org or call Carter at 330-332-4959 or Berger at 330-337-3341.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org