Here's a look at how the bleachers on the south end of the football side of QU-Stadium looked in 2005 before they were covered by tarps, which are still used today.
In case you actually have a life and didn’t watch the Quincy School Board meeting on the net last night, the board made its first steps toward getting some sort of artificial surface at Flinn Stadium by voting to seek bids for the project. The board also announced that it had Quincy University on board for a partner.
If you’re wondering why a private school like QU would get on board with a public school project, you must not be a frequent visitor to the football side of QU-Stadium. One of my Twitter followers asked that I republish the article I wrote on the sad state of the stadium. Thanks to the blog, I can do that.
Here’s the main story on the stadium, with a sidebar included at the end. These were published on Oct. 9, 2005. The stadium has only gotten worse since then.
Headline: Recruits are steered away from a crumbling stadium
Saddled with an aging, crumbling stadium, Quincy University football coach Bill Terlisner has chosen to keep would-be Hawks far away from QU-Stadium.
“We don’t take recruits into the stadium when they visit,” said Terlisner, a QU alum who is in his sixth season as the school’s head coach. “You just drive them by, but you don’t walk them in.”
The football side of the stadium is in deteriorating condition. QU administrators declared parts of the stadium unsafe for spectators for the first two games this season.
An entire section of the south end of the stadium, as well as another seven-row section just north of that spot, have eroded beyond repair, and the sections are filled with loose gravel. Concrete reinforcing bar, also known as rebar, is visible, and at least two big holes are in the stands above the Hawks’ locker room.
Even the south end of the bleachers, which does get used by fans, is in worsening condition. The area, designated for visitors seating, features rotting wood boards.
“The first time I was in (the stadium), I realized why they didn’t take me in there on my recruiting trip,” senior wide receiver J.P. Limbaugh said. “It was something that shocked me a little bit.”
Athletic Director Pat Atwell believes the stadium is safe, but said closing part of the seating area was necessary.
“The people (from the QU physical plant) have looked at it. It’s a big, strong building,” he said. “(But) I don’t want anybody walking by there. I don’t want anybody sitting there. Even if we put people there, I don’t think there would be a problem. I just want to avoid the problem. I don’t want a little kid running by and tripping on a piece of rebar.”
The north part of the stands also looked a little ragged before the team’s opener last month. At least a dozen new seating boards were replaced in the north end, and many steps and other small areas were patched with concrete.
“Our own maintenance department did as good a job as they could,” Atwell said. “We patched what we could patch.”
The inside of the stadium, which opened in 1939 and has been home to QU football since the program was re-introduced in 1986, isn’t in good shape, either. Paint is peeling off the walls in both locker rooms. A bank of shower heads in one of the two shower stalls in the visitors locker room has broken off the wall and is being held up by soap dishes.
Larry Moeller, a building inspector for the city of Quincy, said no complaints have been filed about the stadium. He said his office doesn’t make regular inspections of structures like QU-Stadium and only inspects buildings when a problem arises.
“The football side (of the stadium) could use a lot of love,” said Sister Margaret Feldner, QU’s president.
Fixing the problem
Atwell, in his fifth year as athletic director, wants to make improvements to the stadium but is hesitant to put money into the facility “when we could use that money for a bigger project,” he said.
“I’d like to tear down the entire bleachers and press box, leave the stone wall up to keep the integrity of the stadium in place, then go with your typical aluminum bleachers,” he said.
Atwell said another possibility would be to install Field Turf, a synthetic surface made up of crushed rubber tires, at North Campus Field and make that facility home for football and soccer. North Campus Field now is used for men’s and women’s home soccer games.
Atwell estimates the cost of each project to be between $500,000 and $750,000.
The school finished two capital improvement projects that benefited the athletic department this decade.
Memorial Gym, now known as Pepsi Arena, was renovated as part of the building of the QU Health and Fitness Center, a $1.6 million project completed in 2000.
Earlier this year, the Mart Heinen Softball Complex opened at North Campus Field. That project had a pricetag of $300,000, a third of which was covered by donations from the Mart Heinen Club, the school’s athletic booster organization.
Club president John Gallaher says the group still owes $45,000 on its commitment to the softball project – $15,000 each year through 2007.
“We have talked about the stadium, but there’s not much the club can do right now,” Gallaher said. “It’s something that needs to be done. Financially, we’re in a bind with the outlay for the softball field.”
A group of football parents – the QU Football Touchdown Club – wants to see the team in a better facility.
“We are trying to motivate the university to take action and make what we feel are fair and necessary improvements to QU-Stadium,” said Bob Martin, co-president of the organization, whose son, Austin, is a sophomore offensive lineman.
“To compete with teams like St. Francis (Ind.) and McKendree, they have to have a better stadium. The players want to see newer facilities.”
Martin said the group is in the beginning stages of organizing a fundraiser to help the program.
Even if the group were to raise the funds, it’s not likely the stadium problems will be fixed any time soon. QU-Stadium renovations are part of the university’s master plan, a four-phase plan with no timeline. Feldner said the stadium is part of the final phase.
Feldner said if an individual wrote a check today and earmarked the money for the stadium, it wouldn’t necessarily mean the project would be put on the fast track.
“It has to be done within the context of the university,” said Feldner, who has regularly attended QU athletic events at home and on the road since taking office in January 2004 and is a big supporter of the department.
“I don’t want to come across like I’m against it, but there is a vision for the whole university.”
The grass is greener on the other side
On the west side of the two-block QU-Stadium facility is a baseball field that is home to the school’s baseball team and the Quincy Gems, a summer league team in the Central Illinois Collegiate League.
The Quincy Convention & Visitors Bureau, which operates the Gems, has made major renovations to the baseball side of the stadium since the city rejoined the CICL in 1996. New seating was installed down the first- and third-base lines, a press box was built and worn-down bleachers were replaced.
“It’s hard to keep an old place up like that, but you have to stay on top of it,” Gems General Manger Jeff Jansen said.
Jansen said the Gems have spent more than $275,000 on the upkeep of the baseball portion of QU-Stadium, and that total doesn’t include a $100,000 donation made by the late Bernie and Isabelle Willer for the installation of lights.
“This could be a beautiful place, especially with the beautiful walls that are here,” said Taylor University coach Steve Wilt, whose team lost 26-19 to QU on Oct. 1. “It could be made into an attractive place. It looks like you’ve done some things with the baseball field over there. Hopefully, they can find a way to get (the football side) done, too.”
Terlisner, who played at the school from 1987-1990 and has been the program’s head coach since 2000, wants something done with the stadium.
“The playing field is spectacular, but the stadium is a huge disadvantage for us,” he said. “It’s a negative recruiting tool, which I know other schools use against us.”
No plans are in place for a capital campaign specific to the football stadium. Getting the Hawks’ home up to par is at the top of Atwell’s priority list.
“I’d be disappointed if we don’t have something done in a couple years,” he said. “But I would never promise it.”
SIDEBAR: Stadium looks ‘like a crime scene’
Senior J.P. Limbaugh, a wide receiver on the Quincy University football team, didn’t think much of the police tape that was roped around parts of QU-Stadium during the team’s season opener last month.
“I tell (people) the roped-off area is for our marching band, but they just didn’t make it to the game,” he said.
Limbaugh says that with a laugh, because the school doesn’t have a marching band.
Junior quarterback Matt Wehrle sees something different when he looks at the south end of the stadium, parts of which have been reduced to rubble.
“We’re making small improvements I see, but it definitely looks like a crime scene,” Wehrle said. “It definitely looks like a crime’s been committed. No joke.”
The Hawks don’t enjoy much of an advantage at the field they’ve called home since the program’s rebirth in 1986.
The team’s home locker room is a cold concrete holding area with no lockers underneath the stands. Two benches are used – one each for the defense and offense. The units are separated at halftime by a shower curtain.
Players either dress in their apartments or at the team’s locker room at North Campus and find their own transportation to QU-Stadium, about a half-mile south of North Campus and a quarter-mile north of the school’s main campus.
“It would be nice to have your locker room near the game field or at least near the practice field,” Limbaugh said.
Since the Mart Heinen Softball Complex was built at the team’s previous practice area at North Campus Field, the team practices on the “A” field north of Pepsi Arena on QU’s campus. Most players dress for practice at their dorms or apartments.
Neither team has much privacy on game days, especially during halftime breaks. The men’s restroom is at the north end of the visitors locker room, while the women’s restroom is at the south end of the Hawks’ locker room.
“It’s an old stadium with some personality,” St. Francis (Ind.) coach Kevin Donley said. “I kind of like it, but some renovations would be appropriate.”
Donley is in his eighth season at St. Francis, a Mid-States Football Association Mideast Division conference foe of QU’s. The Cougars, NAIA national runners-up last season, made their first trip to QU-Stadium last fall, winning 49-13.
Donley was surprised by the lack of privacy his team had.
“There are some things like that which are a problem,” said Donley, whose school has spent nearly $2 million on its stadium, Bishop John M. D’Arcy Stadium, which opened in 1998.
QU-Stadium hasn’t been given many good reviews by visitors, especially since the Hawks joined the MSFA prior to the 2003 season. It has been dubbed “The Shawshank Redemption” by at least one visiting school.
“The field surface is pretty nice, but the other aspects of it, it would be nice if they’d upgraded,” Taylor (Ind.) coach Steve Wilt said. “It’s not up to par in terms of some of the other things you see like the locker rooms, the bleachers and those types of things.”
Two sections in the south end of the stadium, which is typically reserved for visiting fans, have been roped off. Two gaping holes can be found in the concrete in those areas, which are above the Hawks’ locker room.
“I don’t think you worry about anyone falling in,” Limbaugh said. “It would be nice to have an area we could sit down and get a couple more benches in there, though.”
No one seems to have issues with the playing surface. The school spent $10,000 this summer for an irrigation system for QU-Stadium.
However, other than patching holes in the north end of the stands (where QU fans typically sit) and replacing a few wood planks, the school has done little upkeep on the stadium itself over the years.
The Mart Heinen Club, a group of 200 supporters of QU athletics, helped the football program buy recruiting equipment and a dryer. It raises around $25,000 a year, but the club has committed $15,000 a year through 2007 to help foot the bill for the softball complex, which opened this spring.
The club receives funding requests for each sport though Athletic Director Pat Atwell.
“Some coaches don’t come to us, but we’re there for all of the sports,” club president John Gallaher said.
The football program has self-funded two improvements to its North Campus facility. The locker room was refurbished several years ago, and new equipment was purchased for the weight room.
“The stadium is more of a capital campaign project,” QU coach Bill Terlisner said.
QU’s players said they would like to have a home they could be proud to show off to fans and opposing teams alike.
“I feel bad that (other teams) have to come here and see something like this,” Wehrle said. “It’d be nice to have people come in from out of town and have nice facilities, have somewhere they can shower and do those sorts of things.
“It would be nice to have something comfortable, and having them look at it and not have it look like this.”