MANCHESTER, NH – As the sun set Friday on Clem Lemire Complex football field, the long shadows of players from all of Memorial High School athletic teams stretched across the impressive new field turf.
“It’s long overdue,” said now-retired longtime principal Arthur Adamakos, who was joined center field by school officials and Mayor Joyce Craig, decked out in her vintage 1980s varsity Crusaders jacket, a nod to her alma mater in a moment of solidarity and celebration with the students, staff members and parents who assembled for the ceremonial ribbon-cutting to christen the state-of-the-art upgrades.
The previous turf was laid out in 2004 with a life expectancy of 12 years, Adamakos said.
Above: Memorial Principal Shaun St. Onge cuts the ceremonial ribbon on the Crusaders’ new athletic field. Photos/Stacy Harrison
“Memorial had field turf before Gillette Stadium did,” Adamakos said, recalling the last time the field was upgraded. “We were one of only two schools in the state to have it back then – I can’t remember what the other school was,” he added, noting that in retirement it’s not his job to remember all the details so much as it is to continue to revel in such joyful moments as this.
In addition to providing a safer environment for athletes, the hope is that the new turf and track will give Manchester an edge as the NHIAA looks for venues that offer the best state tournament experience for athletes and spectators.
“We have parking for more than 500 and seating for over 3,000. It’s one of the best facilities in the state,” Adamakos said, his Crusader pride on full display.
Sophomore Laila Gustafson, who runs track and cross-country, said she loved the new track. “There weren’t any holes to be scared of tripping on,” she said.
“And no patchwork in sight,” added teammate Lauren Bartnicki, a senior, who is looking forward to ending her high school athletic career using the new and improved facilities. “It’s also great being able to not have to drive across the city to practice,” she added, referring to typical practice runs at Derryfield Park.
“Did you feel the bounce?” asks Girls Varsity XC coach Sharon Nault. “Just standing on it, you can feel the difference.”
The track, which encircles the football turf, is red with white striping, instead of black. “It’s our school colors now, plus it won’t be as hot. It’s an overall improvement,” Lauren said.
Friday’s ribbon-cutting brought Memorial athletic teams together, all of them in uniform, to share a moment of school spirit before classes resume for the 2020-21 school year on Sept. 2. They made a circle around the centerfield Crusaders emblem and did several rounds of the wave before new principal Shaun St. Onge did the honors and cut the ribbon. As the band played the school’s fight song, students cheered and clapped before clearing the field for Friday night’s boys varsity soccer game.
St. Onge, who was hired as principal last summer, says this school year feels like year “1-A,” since it will be his first starting the school year in the building full time with students, due to last year’s COVID protocols.
“I’m just excited we’re here and it’s great to start this year on such a high note,” St. Onge said.
Below: The ribbon is cut. Video/Carol Robidoux