ALEDO — With great pomp and circumstance, the new Bearcat Stadium opened last Friday night with a lot of fanfare and a tremendous crowd from both Aledo and the visiting Weatherford fans.

More than 8,000 tickets were sold for the game to make it a sell-out, not counting the additional people who were in the stadium as members of the football teams, pep squads, bands, coaching staffs, stadium personnel, media or Aledo students who have athletic passes. Aledo ISD Superintendent of Schools Don Daniel estimated the total attendance at near 10,000 people, which is right at what the fire marshal told Aledo ISD they would allow into the stadium.

“That is quite a crowd for a non-district football game and it was quite a crowd for an opening of a stadium,” said Aledo head football coach Tim Buchanan. “I hope it is like that every week. Weatherford brought a great number of people over here. There was a lot of blue over there on that visitor side. I could not be more happy how the game went off.”

Buchanan felt that everyone who contributed to the stadium’s opening and the running of the first game, from Daniel to John Branson, the stadium manager, to Don Cassidy in the business office to the maintenance and transportation crews to security to Lillian Hale and everyone who sold tickets, deserve high marks for the accomplishment.

“It was quite a feat to pull that off,” Buchanan said. “The majority of what I heard about it was positive. People were really happy with it. People were happy with the way how their seats turned out.”

“[Fan’s comments] were all positive,” Daniel said. “[The fans] were very proud of the facility. They felt we got a lot of value for our dollar and were very proud of that.”

The district was also able to get a lot of value back on ticket sales and concession stands, as gross ticket sales were around $44,000, while the gross concession stand receipts stood at just over $20,000. The district will pay for all the stadium workers, such as the game officials, security, clock operators, ticket sellers, video board operator and the like out of the gross ticket sales.

Aledo ISD stocks the concession stands for the athletic, band, and ag boosters, and after that bill is paid, a high percentage of the remaining profit will go to the boosters.

The stadium featured several new amenities that Aledo did not enjoy in the old Bearcat Stadium, like more restrooms, concession stands, and watch a game on a brand new artificial turf.

“It plays like natural grass,” Buchanan said. “It is not as fast a track as the old Astroturf. We lost our footing — we stumbled a few times. But I was watching TCU play Texas Tech on a natural grass field [last] Saturday afternoon and saw kids, when they got fatigued, do the same thing. We will get use to it each week, and the more practice we get on the field, the better off we will be.”

Fans may have noticed more rubber and sand go up in the air on big tackles and cuts down on the field by a player, but Buchanan said that is only natural for this type of field.

“This is a monofilament field, so you are going see a little bit more spray of rubber on this field than what you will see on Old Bearcat or at Denton or the field at Texas Stadium,” Buchanan said.

The reason Aledo went to this type of field was because the slit-type of field, like at Denton or Texas Stadium, has a tendency to have the blades of artificial grass lay down over the rubber/sand combination, which leaves more of the rubber mix down in the turf, but when wet, leaves the field acting like a Slip ’N Slide. On the turf at the new Bearcat Stadium, that is not so much of a problem.

“The ideal situation in this is that their cleats get down in that rubber and sand and it is just like a grass field,” Buchanan said. “Your cleats get down in that sand and rubber and you get traction down in there. It might be slightly slower right now than a natural grass field because it is a new field and the sand and rubber has not had a chance to settle.”

Buchanan also said the more the field is played on, the quicker the rubber mix will settle.

“We will start playing our sub-varsity games on it as soon as the track surface gets put down,” Buchanan said.

The artificial surface for the track is just one of the few remaining things to be done before the stadium is officially completed.

“The track will be down prior to our next home game,” Daniel said. “They are finishing up some paneling that goes up on the bleachers where some of the structure was showing. There is some lettering and district logos that go up on the front of the ticket office and the back of the press box. It is just finishing touches.”

Those final touch-ups are projected to be finished prior to the Everman game.

The new stadium did have some complaints, but they centered around two main areas: concession stand efficiency and parking/traffic.

“There were people complaining about we ran out of food in the concession stand,” Buchanan said. “You can only stock so much. We were selling it as fast as we could sell it. I know some people complained that the concession stands did not run as fast and as effectively as they wanted. We have point of sale cash registers in there and it does take a little bit longer to get the money and stuff. We had people running them that it was the first time they had run a concession stand and you have to remember, they are all volunteers.”

The number of people at the game drew a lot of vehicles to the Aledo High School campus and not everyone was able to find a parking spot, as some people parked either on the grass field east of the campus, on Vernon Rd. or on Bailey Ranch Rd. Daniel said that other options for more parking will be made available.

“We will have some additional spill-over parking,” Daniel said. “We met Tuesday and we went through everything from pregame to getting the traffic out and how we can better do that.

“We have some spill-over parking areas that were not utilized and that we will be able to use. We will have some additional spill-over areas once all the construction equipment is gone and once the area that will one day be our ninth grade building — which is east of the parking lots — once that is leveled and put into a condition to mow, which it will be once everything is finished, that will be spill-over parking as well.”

Daniel said that he believed the new stadium’s opening could be compared with the old saying, “You don’t build a church for Easter Sunday.”

“That is why we met and went through each detail and how many more spaces we needed and so now, we feel like if we have handled one of the largest crowds that we will have, now we are in a position to handle that on a weekly basis,” Daniel said. “We know that we have room for improvement on those things from that first meeting. With [the crowd] being that large, it really helped us because now we have planned for Easter Sunday and we can take care of every other Sunday now.”

The number one thing that was discussed as soon as the game was over Friday night though was not parking. Ist was the traffic situation that developed after the game as thousands of people tried to leave the campus.

“We have revamped the exiting procedures,” Daniel said. “We will have more officers in place. We will bypass the light at Bankhead going north so that you can hit the interstate. We will have another exit that is going out north of the stadium onto Bankhead, but will turn west on Bankhead and then folks can either go to Ranch House Rd. or they will be able to hit the interstate by the access road by going up one of the new streets that cut through from the access road to Bankhead. We will have traffic officers in all of those positions.

“Where you will have any type of stack-up traffic control will be at the bridge at the interstate. Whether you were going east or going across the bridge. We will have officers at Bailey Ranch and the corner of the high school for people going up Bailey Ranch.

“That planning started Friday night,” Daniel said. “One of the problems was that we did not get them there early enough. They waited until closer to the end of the game to go to their positions. We need to get them there at the end of the third quarter so that they are in position for those who start leaving early.”

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