New stadium bringing excitement to Niles

If Bo Rein Memorial Stadium could talk, it would share the cleat marks, the roars of the crowd and history woven into the fabric of this Niles landmark.

The stadium, formerly named Riverside Stadium, was originally constructed in the 1930s as part of the WPA projects.

It housed many passionate fans over the years and saw the great teams of the 1960s take the field and leave many opponents dazed and confused. There would be years when the Red Dragons would try to recapture that glory, some being more successful than others.

As the years passed, you could see the wear and tear on Bo Rein Stadium. Volunteers would come each year, trying to spruce up the stadium, but you could tell the old, weathered venue needed more than the yearly facelift.

When Mother Nature wreaked havoc on the field, mud became more prevalent than grassy turf. Something needed to be done.

Something has been done and synthetic turf is currently being put on the field and should be ready for the Aug. 16 football scrimmage against Lakeview, starting at 10 a.m. Another scrimmage also is at Bo Rein on Aug. 22 against Campbell, starting at 7 p.m.

“It’s going to be a very exciting time for all of Niles,” Niles football coach Brian Shaner said. “They’ve been working on this for a very long time. It’s going to be exciting to come out of our tunnel for the first time. It’ll be nice not to worry about mud or the lack of grass in the center of the field. It’s going to be very special for our seniors.”

The first non-football event on the turf is the Aug. 19 girls soccer game against Lakeview.

This project was spearheaded by Tim Parry, Project Chair of the REIN (Renovating Excellence in Niles) Committee. He started this project in 2007 and worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the need for artificial turf.

Then, with the $200,000 donation by the Cafaro Foundation, things started to roll on and the artificial surface and a new Bo Rein Stadium was starting to become a reality.

The turf costs $526,000 to install, and the REIN Committee, which relies on donations, is covering $270,000 of that cost, while the school district is covering the remainder.

The top 14 rows off the visitor’s side were taken off to make room for the new high school, and Parry said it is in the works to put in a new press box to replace the one that was there. In early January, the Niles Board of Education voted to revamp the visitor’s stands to accommodate the new high school.

Also, a new entrance way with brick columns and possibly a steel archway will be established by the band shelter to welcome in patrons from the parking lot, where the old high school used to sit.

However, right now, the synthetic turf is being put in Bo Rein Stadium. Paving and fencing is being put around to solidify the turf.

“When you do the turf, you have to do some paving and some fencing,” Parry said. “We have another 80-90 thousand dollars of improvements we’re going to be doing in the next month or so.

“We entered in a donation agreement. Anytime you do something there, it’s the school district’s property. They have to enter into the contract. They spend a certain amount of money on the field, whether it’s grass or turf. What they said is, ‘annually we’re spending $35,000 a year on the turf.’ They pledged that much money for seven years and we picked up the rest of it. We will be footing the bill for all the paving and fencing.”

Parry said he hopes the new press box and entrance will be done by late August.

There are other things the REIN Committee would like to update as well.

“The timing would be through how much money we could raise,” Parry said. “We’d love to be able to do everything right now. We have a long list of things we’d like to update, spruce the place up. It will be a long-term vision. The overall project was a couple million dollars. We’re at the tip of the iceberg right now.”

In the next couple of years, when things get completed, Bo Rein Stadium will truly be the crown jewel of this football-frenzied town.