By MARY ANN GREIER
SALEM - The Reilly Project came to a close Wednesday with an official ribbon-cutting to celebrate its completion after three years of fundraising, plan alterations, sweat and tears of emotion.
Reilly Project Committee and Salem Preservation Society members, Salem school officials, project contractors, the architect, business leaders and public officials cut a ribbon Wednesday to signify completion of the Reilly Project at Reilly Stadium after three years of fundraisers, planning and work. Those taking part included front from left, Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Audrey Null, Shawna L’Italien, Bill Kreidler of Kreidler Construction, architect David Sommers, Hobie Butcher of Masonry Materials Plus, Reilly Project Steering Committee members Keith Berger, JeanAlice Fehr, BJ Abrams and Karen Carter, Melissa Costa of the Salem Community Foundation, Elaine Rousseau-Kothera, Gina Dermotta and Nancy McCoy; back from left, Matthew Butts, Geoff Goll, John Tonti of the Salem Community Foundation, Salem Schools Superintendent Tom Bratten, Salem Schools Treasurer Jim Wilson, Salem Board of Education vice president Steve Bailey, Rick Lutsch, Salem Athletic Director Todd Huda and Salem Mayor John Berlin. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)
"This project is kind of special to me. I grew up a block from here and used to play on the wall," project architect David Sommers said.
A 1967 graduate of Salem High School, Sommers was given the task of designing the Reilly Stadium wall renovation which included a new north wall, recreating the old north wall and ticket booth and incorporating a dedication park with engraved pavers, benches and trees.
Partway through the fundraising project, the vision had to be reworked to fit what the school board was willing to pay from permanent improvement funds and what the Reilly Project Committee from the Salem Preservation Society could raise from donations, dances, car shows, business promotions and the sale of pavers, benches and remnants of the old north wall.
The committee had originally set a fundraising mark of $650,000 to cover everything, including the razing of the north wall and the rebuilding of the north wall and part of the east wall, along with the dedication park and ticket booth.
In the end, the total cost of the project was $393,000, with $175,000 from the Salem Preservation Society and its committee and the rest over two years from the school board from permanent improvement funds, which can only be used for permanent improvements such as repairs to facilities.
"I think it's a great addition to the community," school board vice president Steve Bailey said.
He thanked the Salem Preservation Society for all its work in pursuing the project. He's glad it's finished and said he's glad they had community support for it. Bailey graduated from SHS in 1992.
"I'm so emotionally attached to this," Karen Carter, SHS '64 graduate, said.
Carter was a member of the Reilly Project Steering Committee, which included SPS President Keith Berger, SPS Vice President David Schwartz '67, JeanAlice Fehr and BJ Abrams '68.
"I'm just thrilled at the tremendous alumni and community support that was invested in this," she said, suggesting people read the pavers to understand the emotional attachment people have to Reilly Stadium and the wall.
"We had very low periods and high periods. We tried to stay focused and keep towards our goal and not be discouraged," she said. "I love it and I think the people love it."
Due to safety concerns for the old north wall, the school board decided it couldn't wait and paid for taking the wall down and placing a temporary fence in its place, then having the newly-designed north wall built, along with part of the east wall which was crumbling. That was Phase I.
Phase II included the Salem Preservation Society's dream of a dedication park, north wall replica and ticket booth replica, which was partially completed in time for football season. The school district also paid for the parking lot paving, which included handicapped spots.
According to Bailey, the school board spent less than they expected for what they would have had to do anyway with the wall and the parking area.
Carter issued thanks to the many people who helped make the project possible, including the school board for allowing them three years to raise the necessary money for what they wanted to accomplish. She thanked the committee members and SPS members for their hard work, all the contractors, including Richardson Monuments, Masonry Materials Plus, Kreidler Construction, Lawn & Landscaping, Advanced Landscaping and Sommers, the architect.
She thanked the Salem Community Foundation for the largest donation, which covered the building of the ticket booth, and the Pearce Foundation which donated $10,000. Ken and Mindy Schwingle, SHS Class of 1980, who own Valley View Nursery, donated three pear trees for the park in memory of Mindy's mother and two brothers.
Carter recalled all the historic events that have happened at the stadium, such as J.F.K's visit in 1960 and Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens running on the track, but she also recalled her own memories and the memories of others who frequented the stadium in their youth. She said it's also about the current crop of students, making their own memories at the historic stadium.
She noted that pavers are still available for purchase at prices of $100 for 4x8 and $150 for 8x8. Forms are available at BB Rooners, Giant Eagle and Hibbetts.