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Athletics upgrade.

Byline: Steve Mims The Register-Guard

COTTAGE GROVE - Say this about new Herald White Stadium: It doesn't leave anyone speechless.

Instead, everyone seems to find different ways to rave about the new athletic facility at Cottage Grove High School.

"I've coached for 34 years and this is a fantasy dream," Lions head football coach Bob Heckman said. "Any coach would say, `I wish I had a field like that someday,' and a few of us get one. The turf, the scenery, the covered grandstand, the lighting, the track facility, when you see it you go, `Oh my goodness.' '

Athletic director David Presley has heard similar sentiments from everyone who has stopped by the stadium that will host football and soccer games along with track meets.

"People come over here and say, `Oh my gosh, look at the track. Oh my gosh, look at the field. Look at the scoreboard,' ' Presley said. "It's the wow factor. Everyone comes around and says, `Oh wow, this is great.' People are overwhelmed."

Groundbreaking on the new stadium began in June of 2001, and the work was finished last month when the AstroPlay artificial turf was put down in front of the covered grandstand that includes 127 theater-style reserved seats and more than 1,000 general admission spots.

"I knew what it was supposed to look like, but it's amazing," Cottage Grove senior quarterback Dayton Edwards said. "It seems like a college stadium. You'd see it coming together and then you got here in August and it was, `Wow.' '

Tom Welter, the executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association, toured the facility last month, and he said the field is suitable to host state playoff games in football as a neutral site.

"I was very impressed, it's a beautiful facility," Welter said. "It is well laid out to where the athletic complex is totally separate from the school building, so if we came in for a night game or a Saturday event, we would not have to get into the main building. The locker rooms are wonderful and well thought out, there are nice grandstands, and a press box on both sides."

Cottage Grove voters approved a $25.9 million bond measure in 2000 to pay for a new school, which opened on Sept. 3. In addition to the stadium, the athletic complex also features two gymnasiums - one of which seats 1,200 - and a wrestling room.

The football stadium was officially unveiled last Friday night when the Lions defeated Sutherlin 45-6. The grandstands from Currin Field, the former home of the Lions, were moved into the new stadium, which brought the seating capacity to about 3,000.

The new covered grandstand sits on the east side of the stadium and features amenities not found at many high school football games.

The restrooms are double the usual size and feature a covered hallway to keep fans dry if they have to wait in line. The press box is also twice the normal size and features Internet access.

The facility has created plenty of anticipation for Friday nights in Cottage Grove as the Lions hope to make their first trip to the postseason since 1992.

"You better believe we're excited, but we won't know if that will pay off until payday," said Heckman, who is beginning his 19th season as head coach.

The first payday of the Sky-Em League season comes Friday night when Cottage Grove heads to Junction City.

The Lions have tossed out the double wing offense they used for most of the past six years in favor of a system that will feature more passing.

"We are as far away from the double wing as Mars is from the sun," Heckman said. "We made a big transition in a short period of time. We are learning and evolving. We had kids who had never run a pass route or caught a ball."

Edwards plays quarterback and has the ability to drop back and pass or run the option.

"I like this offense a lot more, we can utilize our talents," Edwards said. "We weren't as big as we needed to be for the double wing. Speed is a big factor for us this year."

Senior Ernie Rubio and junior Wyatt Naegle are among the receivers, while Taylor Boustead and Tyler Gifford are running backs who can both run the 100 meters in less than 11.5 seconds.

"We've got speed, five guys who can run an 11.6 or better," Heckman said. "We are going down the field as often as we can as fast as we can. It is like night and day from where we were. We threw the ball 16 times in our first game and we did not throw 16 times in three weeks last season. We might throw 30 times in a game."

The Lions will do it at the stadium that gives Heckman the feeling of being at the happiest place on earth.

"It's like somebody who has never been to Disneyland and they plan the trip and then they finally get there," Heckman said.

CAPTION(S):

Cottage Grove's junior varsity football team stretches on the AstroPlay artificial turf of the new Herald White Stadium. Collin Andrew / The Register-Guard Ben Robbins tends to the barbecue before the dedication of the new stadium Friday.
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Title Annotation:Cottage Grove's new stadium brings a different atmosphere; Sports
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 16, 2003
Words:886
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