Oberlin Schools Have No Plan for New Stadium


Courtesy of Erik Andrews

Oberlin High School football team.

In fall 2019, Oberlin Phoenix Field, which had been home to the Oberlin High School football team and the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams, was demolished to make way for the construction of Oberlin Elementary School. Because of this, the three teams that competed at the stadium for decades were forced to play elsewhere in 2020 and 2021, and may continue to use alternate facilities moving forward.

The OHS football and soccer teams competed at Ely Stadium in Elyria for their home games in 2020. While there is a state-of-the-art, multipurpose stadium in town — Knowlton Athletics Complex owned by the College — Oberlin’s COVID-19 safety precautions in 2020 prohibited teams who were not affiliated with the College from using the facility. 

When the College lifted these restrictions in fall 2021, Oberlin High School football was able to compete at Knowlton for a price of $1,000 per game for its five home games. The boys’ and girls’ soccer teams were left to compete primarily on “Oberlin High School back field,” which lacks a permanent stadium structure and has historically only been used as a practice field.

While the new elementary school has been built, and there are plans for a new high school to get approved, there are no plans to implement a new stadium for OHS from the Oberlin City Schools Board of Education. However, Vice President of the Oberlin City Schools Board of Education, Ken Stanley, says it is an issue that will likely be a topic of discussion within the town going forward. 

Recent OHS graduate Austin Bullocks played for four years on the boys’ soccer team and emphasized the importance of being able to compete at a home stadium.

“It meant everything,” Bullocks said. “Every time I stepped on that field my game felt elevated as friends and family cheered me and my teammates on. There’s nothing like it. There’s something about being [able] to play on your own field or court and being able to represent your school and hometown.”

College first-year Jack Page played four years as a goalkeeper for the OHS boys’ soccer team and was a part of the 2020 team that played all of their home games in Elyria. 

“I think there’s a lot of comfort in a home field,” Page said. “Usually, you have a lot more fans, since some parents can’t make it out to somewhere like Elyria.”

Page feels that some of the school spirit and pride for his community is taken away when he’s not able to compete at a home stadium.

“It was hard to care as much, compared to the old field, where I wasn’t going to let anyone score on a field with the Oberlin ‘O’ on it,” Page said. 

For now, the only way Oberlin High School student-athletes will get to play under the lights of a stadium in Oberlin is at Knowlton. While the $1,000-per-game price tag may seem steep, Stanley believes it to be a good deal. 

“$1,000 a game is a bargain compared to the cost of building a stadium, which is at least $1 million,” Stanley said.

In addition to the financial challenges of building a new stadium that would likely ask voters to approve a tax increase, there is also a property space issue surrounding a new stadium for OHS.

“I think space is a real challenge,” Stanley said. “We have some space where the Boys & Girls Clubs used to be on [North] Pleasant Street, but I’m not sure if that’s large enough to build a full stadium.” 

Stanley brought up the idea that a soccer-specific venue could be implemented in what space the schools are left with after construction of new school facilities. In some surrounding schools, this idea has been implemented before. Both Wellington High School and Vermilion High School have soccer fields built on separate lots from their football stadium. 

“A soccer stadium does not have to be as large as a football stadium because the crowds aren’t as large,” Stanley said. “It’s possible that a soccer stadium might fit in a site where a football stadium might not.”

The property on North Pleasant Street and North Main Street, where Pleasant Street School — the former home of the Boys & Girls Clubs — was before it was torn down in 2020, spans over 4 acres. A full-sized soccer field is 1.76 acres and although the shape of the property is not ideal, it may be possible for a field to fit in the lot. 

Most schools in the area have their own stadium. Out of the eight teams in Oberlin’s conference, the Lorain County 8, only OHS does not have a football stadium of its own. 

Although the lack of a stadium affects several OHS sports teams, there are many other projects going on with the school district that currently have the Board of Education’s attention.

“It’s something we need to talk about,” Stanley said. “Between COVID and the new buildings, there have been a lot of other things that are more pressing, but it’s something we certainly need to talk about.”