New Shirk Stadium: It’s All Right at Albright

Reading, PA – The completely renovated, multi-sport facility will host its first event Sept. 1. Full completion should come with the Lions’ Sept. 24 football opener. It was a scorching August afternoon, and Albright athletic director Dr. Stephen George stood at midfield of Shirk Stadium wearing a hardhat, goggles and a priceless expression. He gazed at the surroundings, his mind racing from the past to the future of the Lions’ home. “You know, I played here in the ’60s,” George said. “There was no finer place to play.” Then, an ever-so-slight pause. “Back then,” he continued. “Obviously, in the 40 years since, she fell apart.” Yes, Shirk Stadium definitely began to show its age. From crumbling concrete to a dilapidated press box, the historic facility had steadily deteriorated to the point where major changes were necessary. If you attend an event at Shirk Stadium this season, you will notice major changes. Grass has been replaced with artificial surface known as A-Turf, which is comprised of a mixture of rubber and sand covered with synthetic grass. There are new bleachers, with the home side seating 3,000 and the visiting side 2,000. New lights have been installed. Still under construction are new locker rooms, an elaborate press box and a new main entrance along Exeter Street that will open to a concourse featuring concession stands, restrooms and an apparel shop. Each end zone will have a retractable net. The stadium will have a new scoreboard, which will show messages and still photography. The stadium will be utilized for football, soccer, field hockey and lacrosse. The first event at the remodeled stadium will be a soccer game against King’s Thursday, Sept. 1. Reading High, which has a partnership with Albright and plays its home football games at Shirk Stadium, will open its schedule at home Friday, Sept. 2. While the renovations aren’t expected to be completed in full until Albright’s home football opener Saturday, Sept. 24, George said the facility will be fully operational by the first soccer game. “We expect that all that needs to be done to be able to play a game in here on Sept. 1 will be done,” George said. “Seating, restrooms, emergency exits and lighting will all be completed. “We probably won’t be using the new locker rooms located underneath the home stands until Albright’s first football game.” Lions football coach E.J. Sandusky, while sitting in a cool room and staring at a model of the stadium, couldn’t spit out the superlatives fast enough when describing his team’s new home. “It’s hard to believe it’s happening,” said Sandusky, who is entering his ninth season. “If you would have told me two years ago we would be playing in a new stadium in 2005, I probably would have said you were crazy. “It easily elevates us from the bottom part of the conference in terms of football facilities to the top. It will be a huge boost for morale for the team and the school, and it will be a huge advantage in recruiting. It is first class. It really is.” Kutztown University had major renovations done to University Field over the summer, including the replacement of natural grass with A-turf. The Golden Bears will open the football season at home Saturday, Aug. 27. The field hockey and track teams also will compete at University Field.

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