By Claude Thompson, Cincinnati.com
La Salle High School officially unveiled its new football stadium turf at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the field behind the school, featuring representatives from the Cincinnati Bengals, LaRosa's Pizzeria, and other involved companies.
Dubbed the Buddy LaRosa Field at Lancer Stadium, the new field saw complete overhauls to the perimeter fence, the track and field surface, and new synthetic turf installed by the Motz Group. The field has been closed since May 15 for construction.
The project's funding came exclusively from outside sources, according to La Salle High School, including hefty involvement and donations from LaRosa’s Pizzeria, Rumpke and Nieman Plumbing. The Bengals, in conjunction with the NFL Foundation, contributed $325,000 to the renovations, including a $150,000 check presented before the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“The Bengals are extremely pleased to have played a role in helping this new field come to fruition,” said Katie Blackburn, executive vice president of the team. "It’s a quality surface that will provide a great football field that can also be used for other sports and activities. We’ve seen firsthand how much opportunity there is for fields like this to bring a community together. The Bengals are hoping some of (La Salle’s) championship mojo will rub off on us for our 50th season.”
The ceremony featured keynote speeches from former Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Tom Luken – who graduated from La Salle – and Buddy LaRosa, the founder of the pizzeria chain.
“Speaking of change, I look at this field,” Luken said, fighting back tears. “The things I remember about this field. There used to be a green shack and it was made out of plywood and two by fours where we used to store our equipment and some blocking sleds, including one made out of wood that someone had built that had weeds growing up through it. …It’s been amazing to see where La Salle has come since I was a student here.”
The stadium was named in honor of LaRosa’s family and their commitment and loyalty to Cincinnati.
“I’m really honored and humbled today,” said LaRosa, 88. “I speak for my entire family, especially my sons, who were student-athletes at La Salle, so I know the La Salle commitment. They benefited greatly from the Lancer tradition of pursuing excellence in academics, athletics, and the total Christian education. Those Lancer traditions in every phase of their program prepare our young men to be the leaders of tomorrow. I know, I’ve got two of them that drive me nuts.”
The stadium has a new waist-high black vinyl perimeter fence as well as repainted goalposts with new La Salle-branded sleeves and netting. The stadium is still waiting on a new scoreboard to arrive, which is expected to be installed in late July.
At midfield, the “LS” logo rests atop turf that is a lighter shade of green than the rest of the field in the shape of the state of Ohio.
La Salle opens the 2017 football season in Nippert Stadium at the University of Cincinnati against Colerain High School. It won’t play a home game on their new field until Week 3, Sept. 8, against the new West Clermont High School football team.