Greenway steals the show once more

MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Living just two blocks from Greenway Avenue Stadium for much of my life, I am accustomed to seeing a good bit of traffic, particularly during the fall and the spring when there are any number of events taking place at the stadium.

Cars line the streets along the intersection of Kent and Greenway and parking can be at a premium, particularly on Fridays and Saturdays. We never know who we’re going to see parking beside or in front of the house, or even at the end of our driveway, particularly on Homecoming.

Even on Sunday mornings the neighborhood is humming as religious services take place at two venues situated across the street from each other – worship at the church of CityReach Cumberland on Brookfield and, yes, on some Sunday mornings, pee wee football at Stadium on the Green.

This past weekend the neighborhood had a particular bounce to its step, as Greenway hosted high school football on Friday night, soccer all day Saturday and football again on early Saturday evening.

Unbeaten Mountain Ridge came to Cumberland to take on and defeat Allegany, 41-16, the Allegany Girls Soccer Tournament took place Saturday morning and a very nice crowd for such a steamy fall day was on hand for Fort Hill’s 42-0 win over Southern.

You had all kinds of good gate attractions going – a match-up between two of the three Allegany County schools, outstanding soccer and the first home game of the season for Fort Hill.

The star of the show, however, may have been the venue itself, as Greenway Avenue Stadium hosted its first full weekend of activity since the new eight-lane, 400-meter track had been installed and the visitors-side bleachers replaced.

First of all, as someone who has spent many a day and night in the stadium in a lifetime, let me say the visitors-side bleachers always held a special place in my heart, dating all the way back to when they were known as “the wooden side,” and remained “the wooden side” even through the nearly 50 years the bleachers were aluminum.

That’s just who we are here. For instance, right up to the day the gymnasium at the former Allegany High School on Sedgwick Street was demolished, we referred to it as “the new gym” over 50 years after it had opened.

I liked the old visitors side at Greenway because the best seats in the house were in its upper half as the edifice sat at a more extreme slope or incline. The bleachers also held a higher capacity than did the home side, also known as “the concrete side,” even when it was renovated with brick and steel, and that made for some great, great crowds, which blended in magnificently with the thousand or so fans who were sitting on the banks.

It helped create such a feel of a true arena.

Well, let’s be truthful here, the old visitors’ side stood woefully low on code and was not really safe, as, let’s face it, none of us is getting any younger around here.

Secondly, with an exception here and an exception there, those consistent glory-days crowds are a thing of the past here. For beginners, all of the schools are smaller and, in case nobody has reminded us lately, none of us is getting any younger around here.

That said, the $5-million Greenway renovation provided by Allegany County was much needed and welcome to make the stadium a more viable modern-day venue, which I believe will pay even more dividends during the spring when it’s track season.

Greenway can now host state-sanctioned track meets, which are always fantastic events, and as far as football is concerned, there remains plenty of seating on the visitors’ side, keeping Greenway one of the highest-capacity stadiums, if not the highest-capacity high school stadium, in the state; further cementing its just reputation of being the very best high school sporting venue in the state.

Having taken in the Fort Hill-Southern game from the visitors’ side, I found the facility to be far more comfortable and roomier than it had been, and much, much safer. Plus, if you drop your purse or your wallet, or your blanket or your flask, you won’t have to worry about it falling through and beneath the bleachers and then have to pay a kid to crawl underneath to retrieve your fumbled property. You can merely reach over and retrieve it at your feet.

The Greenway Avenue Stadium Committee, which has dedicated itself to this project and to the needed fundraising since 2010, will next turn to the renovation of the facility that houses the press box, the restrooms and concessions atop the visitors-side hill of the stadium.

Neither will this be an easy undertaking as the facility has long been outdated, unsafe in case of medical emergency and, frankly, in need of complete renovation if not complete replacement. The good news is the committee will be able to use what funds it had raised to forward to this project alone since the county made available the $5 million for the track and the replaced seating.

It is all worthwhile and such an admirable cause because of what the stadium means, and can be, to our community.

Don’t be afraid to donate, whatever it is you have to donate or volunteer.

Greenway Avenue Stadium is such a valued part of our community because of the opportunity its being here provides, and means so much to us all because of the special place it holds in our upbringing, our present and our future, and in our hearts.

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