JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – The Bishop McCort Catholic High School football team is working to secure a home field for at least two upcoming contests originally planned to be held at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point.
City and school officials confirmed that a COVID-19 situation temporarily has delayed installation of the artificial turf at the stadium.
Crimson Crushers Athletic Director Ralph DeMarco said the school currently is in negotiations with Richland School District about possibly playing a Sept. 17 home contest against Chestnut Ridge at Herlinger Field. Bishop McCort Catholic and Richland are scheduled to play on Sept. 24 in a Crushers home game.
“We are in negotiations with Richland to play our next home football game there,” DeMarco said on Tuesday.
“My understanding from my discussions with (Bishop McCort football coach) Mr. (Tom) Smith is the company that manufactures the turf was shut down due to COVID-19.
“So, there is no turf apparently being made that can be laid at the Point Stadium at this time. I’ve had no further updates on whether that company has reopened or not.”
Richland Athletic Director Bonnie Kidd confirmed that the two schools are talking, but that no decisions had been finalized as of Tuesday afternoon.
“We’re kind of living week-to-week right now,” DeMarco said. “That’s a crazy way to live. That’s where we are.”
Interim City of Johnstown manager Dan Penatzer said the artificial playing surface at the Point was removed soon after the conclusion of the 76th AAABA Tournament in mid-August, as had been planned. The goal was to have the new turf installed in time for Bishop McCort’s Sept. 17 home date until the out-of-state company encountered pandemic-related issues.
“The company ran into a hitch with their own COVID outbreak,” Penatzer said. “That was the delay.”
Jared Campagna, director of Johnstown’s Public Works Department, hadn’t received a date on when the project will resume.
“The anticipated deadline was the 17th of this month,” Campagna said. “Obviously, we are not going to be able to meet that date.
“We currently don’t have the lockdown new date from them,” he said. “We’re hoping for the best. They are providing updates every few days as progress is made.
“Obviously we’re understanding. It’s a difficult situation for us to be in as the city and (Bishop McCort Catholic) as a lessee. It’s a small bump in the road.”
DeMarco said the Crimson Crushers plan to play junior high and junior varsity games at the Bishop Carroll Catholic High School field. The Crimson Crushers and Huskies formed a football co-op at the varsity level this season.
Campagna said Sargent’s Stadium is ready for the new turf to be installed once work by the manufacturer resumes.
The original turf was installed in 2007 and has been used almost constantly from March through October for 14 years, which is longer than many similar surfaces last, officials said.
The Pitt-Johnstown and Bishop McCort baseball teams and the Flood City Thunder semiprofessional football team play there in the spring. Those are followed by the Johnstown Collegiate Baseball League and AAABA Tournament in the summer, and high school football – and in past years, scholastic soccer – in the fall. This summer, the Johnstown Mill Rats of the Prospect League also used the stadium.
Between actual games and practices, there are very few down days at a stadium often criticized as being underutilized.
“The complete removal of the existing turf. Regrading. Additional stone drainage has been installed,” Campagna said of the completed portion of the work. “It’s basically ready to go. We just have to have them come in and lay in the turf, put the marks on for the baseball field and football field.
“We’ll hit the ground running.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.