The City of Wilmington has approved their portion of the funding to replace the scoreboard and sound system at Legion Stadium’s Jurgensen-Gabriel Field, home to the Wilmington Hammerheads FC professional soccer team as well as the New Hanover High School Wildcats football team.
According to city officials, the equipment was last replaced when major renovations were done to the 6,000-seat stadium in 1999-2000. Parks and Recreation Superintendent Amy Beatty said a meeting to discuss improvements was first held in 2013 between city staff and the main teams using the field.
The new scoreboard will be larger and feature an LED screen that will provide space for advertisers. Sales from that space will go to the field’s users (revenue from ads sold during football games will go to New Hanover High School, and from soccer games to the Hammerheads).
“The sound system and the scoreboard respectively were the top two improvements that users wanted to see accomplished,” Beatty said, noting that both the school and soccer team have been involved with the project from the beginning. “They’re very excited to see this get done. It’ll be a nice upgrade for the city and for the users.”
City council approved both a resolution and an ordinance at their meeting Tuesday night to appropriate $17,445 from their capital balances fund for the project. The city already has $15,888 in revenue from ticket surcharges that are earmarked for improvements at Legion Stadium that will also be put toward the project, for a total of $33,333.
The entire project will cost a total of $115,000. A private citizen, David Ward, has offered to donate $5,000, and the Hammerheads have committed $10,000 to replacing the equipment. The remaining $100,000 will be split evenly between the city of Wilmington, New Hanover County and New Hanover County Schools. The resolution allows City Manager Sterling Cheatham to enter into reimbursement agreements with the other parties.
“If anyone’s been out there for any event, this [the scoreboard] is the first thing you walk away and say how pitiful it is,” said Councilman Neil Anderson, who chairs the Legion Stadium Commission. He praised the cooperation between private and public groups, adding, “I hope to see more partnerships like this.”
The New Hanover County Board of Education voted to approve $33,000 at their Jan. 8 meeting. According to New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet, he plans to include the county’s share of the funding, not to exceed $35,000, in their 2016-2017 fiscal year capital outlay budget for Parks and Gardens.
The Legion Stadium Commission voted to move forward with the equipment replacement at their Nov. 23, 2015 meeting. Anderson, along with commission member Larry Owens and County Commissioners Woody White and Skip Watkins, unanimously recommended the cost-sharing of the project. Councilwoman Margaret Haynes, the vice chair of the commission, as well as Board of Education members Don Hayes and Jeannette Nichols, were absent from the meeting.
Anderson, as well as Mayor Bill Saffo and Councilman Charlie Rivenbark, emphasized how thankful they were to Ward, a New Hanover alum and former student athlete, for getting the project going by making the contribution.
“He’s a real civic-minded person, so I’m not the least bit surprised that he would step up and do this,” said Rivenbark, noting that Ward, who is now a State Farm insurance agent, played high school football alongside future NFL MVP Roman Gabriel.
Rivenbark said this would be especially big news for the New Hanover High School community, whose football team won the Mideastern Conference Championship this past season and made a long playoff run, all with home field advantage at Jurgensen-Gabriel Field.
“They ought to be singing the Hallelujah chorus tonight,” Rivenbark said.