MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Whether it’s during the daily constitutional that may take you by Greenway Avenue Stadium or a mere drive by the stadium, it’s easy to see the love, devotion and hunger the city of Cumberland continues to hold for high school football 12 months of the year.

Oh, sure, there is interest there for other things, as there is more to life than high school football (and how many times I have written those words in my life …), but around this town? Come on now …

Besides, it’s not always the same people who stand or park outside the upper gate of Greenway watching the daily renovation of the visitors’ stands, but oftentimes it is, and when it might be a new face it’s usually a face that has also long been familiar in area football circles.

Thanks to an award of $5 million by Allegany County officials in February ($3.5 million by the Board of Education and 1.5 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars from the County), the next big step in the renovation of the old girl has been underway since before spring, and a picture of how things might look continues to formulate.

First of all, visitors-side seating is going to be smaller than it had previously been, and while it was sad to see the large edifice on the visitors’ side torn out, it was necessary for meeting health and safety codes and to make more room for the new (and official) eight-lane 400-meter running track (this one will actually be 400 meters) that will be installed as part of this project.

Sure, you hate to see the seating capacity of the stadium reduced, because when that place was packed, particularly the visitors’ side and the hills, it was a beautiful and impressive sight to behold. But let’s be honest with ourselves: Those glorious crowds have grown to be few and far between. The math of whom we have become and how many of us there are has more or less dictated that.

Of course, there have still been great crowds – Homecoming, Mountain Ridge, the Melbourne Central Catholic and Cathedral Prep games – but not on the consistent basis that once was.

Things change. We change, and Greenway is going to change with us.

For instance, the landscaping of the banks has already begun to change, and while I haven’t been watching the workers’ progress very closely (those who can’t do don’t watch, we simply notice), the bank on the school-end corner on the Greenway Avenue side has been cut into and steeped, I’m guessing, to help provide room for the eighth lane in the new track.

The field will also have to be altered for the new track to be put down.

Will same-day seating on the banks and the hills remain a Greenway staple for the high-capacity events? I have no idea, although I have been told by one of the workers on the project the banks will look rather different than they have through the years.

Whether or not that will prohibit seating, I can’t say, but, again, that ticket certainly hasn’t been in demand with much frequency lately, so …

It’s all pretty exciting what’s taking place, whether you’re walking by, or parking the car, and seeing something new being done every day that you hadn’t seen previously; in many cases from just the day before.

The money funded for this stage of the project is also scheduled to include improvements for the public walkways and to the storm water system, and that’s pretty cool, too.

The project and the fundraising for the renovation of Greenway began in 2010, and for nearly the first seven years, I sat in on meetings of the Greenway Avenue Stadium Renovation Committee, a bi-partisan (both sides of town) group of concerned citizens who continue to give their all to keep the wheels rolling to make things happen. And this committee’s perseverance and love for Greenway are what made the February funding and the current work taking place a reality.

Once the current stage of the project is complete, the committee will use the money it has raised, and the money it will continue to raise, to renovate the press box on the visitors’ side, which, trust me, is long overdue, particularly given it is a miracle that not one person has died while being within the structure – although, believe me, we have had a couple of close calls.

We always long for the way things used to be, but things aren’t the way they used to be anymore. The Wonder Years are over, and that’s fine. The current and new years are what matter.

Greenway is a showplace. It’s the very best high school sporting venue in the state, and it will continue to be so because it will be even better.

We’re going to love it. Just as we always have.

We’ll love it even more.

Trust me.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT