NILES - When the REIN Committee was formed in 2007, its vision to equip Niles' Bo Rein Stadium with synthetic turf was viewed by many as an unnecessary luxury.
REIN Committee chairman Tim Parry always knew otherwise.
"Five years ago, we knew we would be losing a playing and practice field to the construction of the new high school," Parry said. "We knew that the stadium field would be overused, and wouldn't be able to hold up over the course of a season.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Bo Rein Stadium is quiet now, but during the school year the stadium is well used by many sports — taking a toll on the field. The REIN committee is seeking new turf and renovations to the stadium.
"We were hoping to fix a problem before it surfaced."
Parry's vision proved accurate last October when poor field conditions forced Niles to move its final home varsity football game to Girard. It was one of several events which were moved during the course of the fall sports season.
The result was more than just a financial blow, according to Niles City Council President Bob Marino Jr.
"From a money standpoint, the school district suffered because of the rental fees and lost revenue," Marino said. "But more importantly, our students lost out. The senior players and band members lost out on that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play their last game at home. As a community, our image took a hit."
In an effort to avoid similar occurrences in the future, Marino and other community leaders joined forces with the committee formed by a handful of Niles citizens seeking ways to maintain and upgrade Bo Rein Stadium.
The combined efforts appear to be paying off.
After struggling for four years to gain momentum, the REIN Committee (Renovating Excellence In Niles) has received a recent financial boost from the community.
To date, nearly $350,000 in money, pledges and work commitments has been raised. The vast majority of the donations - including a recent $200,000 gift from the Cafaro Corporation - have come since the end of the 2011 football season.
"For a long time, a lot of people thought that artificial turf and an upgrade to the stadium were luxuries that we really didn't need," Parry said. "But what happened last year opened a lot of eyes. I think people are beginning to understand the need
"I also think there is a better understanding of what this means to the entire community. It's not just a school issue."
Last fall, 51 athletic events were played at Bo Rein Stadium in a 67-day period between late August and late October.
The overabundance of events played at the high school field was largely a result of the ongoing construction of the new high school. The school, scheduled to open in the fall of 2013, will be located behind the visiting bleachers at the stadium. The construction site eliminated a field which in the past was used for practice, and for junior varsity soccer games, as well as lower level football games.
Moving Niles' final home game against Hubbard proved to be a costly expense. In addition to the $1,500 rental fee of Arrowhead Stadium, the school district was forced to spend $1,350 to bus its players and band to Girard. There were also additional losses in ticket and concession sales.
"Simply put, the district does not have the needed funds to make the necessary repairs and improvements, and it can't afford to suffer further losses because of future cancellations," Parry said. "Our goal is to renovate the stadium completely through private donations."
The REIN Committee has established a two-phase renovation plan. Phase I includes the installation of synthetic turf, along with incidental paving and fencing work which would be part of the project. The total cost for the project is estimated at roughly $800,000.
Phase II plans include the construction of a new press box, and a structure in the north end zone which would house locker rooms, rest rooms and concession stands. It also includes work on both the home and visitors side seating areas. The second phase of the project is estimated to cost more than $1 million.
While it is the goal of the REIN Committee to complete both phases of the project in a timely manner, the turf project is "an urgent need" according to Parry. Without other options, the district and its booster clubs are at risk of losing additional revenue due to further event cancellations.
With turf, the school district could save roughly $100,000 in maintenance costs over a 10-year period. Parry originally hoped to raise enough money to install turf this summer. However, the window of opportunity has since closed. He is confident the goal can be achieved by 2013.
"At this point, I would be surprised if we don't have a new field by the fall of 2013," Parry said. "We are in contact with both a lot of citizens and businesses who have shown an interest in helping us achieve our goal."