WHEATON – St. Francis linebacker Justin Flood expects to see some new faces in the stands at St. Francis home games this fall.
And what beautiful stands they will be.
Friday night against Riverside-Brookfield, St. Francis will open its long-awaited, brand-new Kuhn Memorial Stadium, meaning seniors like Flood, of Wayne, will play their first on-campus home game of their high school careers.
The Spartans have played their home games at College of DuPage in recent years because of flooding issues on their old field.
“I know kids that didn’t go to the game just because it wasn’t at home, it was a little bit of a farther drive to COD, and now everybody is going to show up,” Flood said. “It’s going to be nuts. It’s going to be a great opening day.”
The Spartans planned to be able to practice on their new turf field for the first time this week. Spartans coach Greg Purnell said he did not intend to lay foot on the field until the team had the green light to practice there.
Purnell called the new stadium, funded partially by a $1 million donation from Ron and Teri Kuhn of St. Charles, “a long overdue element of what St. Francis has going.”
The school has added a new science wing and library in recent years and plans additional upgrades to athletic facilities, including new locker rooms, concessions for football and a new wrestling room.
“This is only my seventh year here so for year 4, 5 and 6 we were over at COD, and I never really noticed it, but I had a few people tell me, geez, we really lost our homefield advantage,” Purnell said. “I go back to ’08 and ’07 when we played in ankle-deep mud because the field wouldn’t drain, and we had to move our homecoming game in ’08 to Elmhurst College. A Friday night game, and we moved it on a Wednesday.
“Those things just really destroy any continuity for a sense of community that you would have.”
The bleacher capacity of the new stadium is about 1,500, with about 350 of that total coming on the visitors’ side. A new track is also part of the school’s “Bring it All Back Home” fundraising campaign, and should be completed later this fall.
The anticipation of opening night reached a fever pitch as St. Francis practiced off-campus for much of the preseason.
“Some of us have seen it but we want to walk out there in cleats and get playing,” said senior two-way lineman Keegan Riccobene, of St. Charles. “That’s the idea. We’re all really excited.”
Purnell called the fundraising success St. Francis has attained to help the school transform its infrastructure – including Kuhn Memorial Stadium – “unbelievable.” He was grateful to have some input in the project.
“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be at St. Francis to help them build a stadium,” Purnell said. “And I feel very, very lucky about that.”