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Wheelock stadium still not ready for primetime

The bleachers of the Wheelock Stadium have been condemned and deemed unsafe, so they will not be used for home games in the fall, until they can be replaced. Home team fans will have to sit on the visitor's side of the field, leading some to express concerns about rowdy fans during the games. (Photos by Stephen Day | Viewpoints)

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By Ayden Vasquez

With the football season underway, Wheelock Stadium renovations continue as contractors plan to improve the home bleachers next.

With the completion of field refurbishments, there is still work to be done on Wheelock Stadium’s home-side bleachers and other aspects of football facilities. 

Head football coach Tom Craft is excited about being able to utilize the new field as well as the other fields close to the stadium.

“I think this is a positive especially for practice. We now have multiple fields to work on but the grass field gets worn down a lot because it needs to be regrounded,” Craft said. “But the stadium is a great opportunity for the guys to get some work in.”

The Tigers played their first home game at Riverside City College on Sept. 9 after playing most of their home games on Ramona High School’s football field last season. However, all spectators had to sit on the visiting side of the field due to complications with the home-side bleachers.

“It’s always nice to be able to play on your own field. And it’s a lot more convenient to not get on a bus and have to travel off campus,” Craft said. “It’s better for the school, it saves money and it gets people on our campus which is really important.” 

But with the new field comes problems with the old stadium. Wheelock Stadium has not had a major upgrade since May of 2005 when new stadium lights and the first synthetic turf were added to the football field. These upgrades dated the rest of the stadium by modern standards especially compared to other college football programs.

“We have more players, we are a more competitive program and we have improved and evolved over the course of time. But the ability to properly house a growing football program hasn’t improved.” Craft said. “I have 130 to 140 players on my team. The stadium was not built for that. It was built for 60 to 70 players. You have to evolve and improve your facility and so those are things that are going to be challenging for us in the future.”

With coach Craft and the football team’s success, RCC’s football facilities like the weight room, showers and training staff rooms are unable to fit the expanding team and its needs. 

This not only affects the functionality of the football program but affects the safety of those within it as well. 

“If we want to advocate for safety, enhancement of the program and prevention from injury, we have to have adequate facilities whether it’s on the field or in the facilities around us.” Craft said.

Coach Craft estimates that the project will begin in November of this year. This means that all attendees will have to sit in visiting side bleachers until the project is completed.

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