With Alamo Stadium closed for renovations, the first Friday night of the high school football season just wasn't the same this year.
There's no way it could have been the same, really.
For the first time in 30 years, the Grand Dame of high school football stadiums in South Texas spent a Friday night alone in the dark during the regular season.
Kathy Lovejoy, a secretary in the San Antonio ISD athletic department since 1962, didn't quite know what to do with herself when 7:30 rolled around Friday night. She's seen to so many games at Alamo Stadium, which is owned by the SAISD, that she's become a historian of the venerable facility.
To see it dark and empty on the first night of the season makes me sad, Lovejoy, 68, said. Just talking about it makes me teary. There are so many memories in this stadium. The stadium is lonesome tonight.
SAISD teams are playing their home games at the SAISD Sports Complex and Wheatley Heights Sports Complex while Alamo Stadium undergoes its first major renovation since opening in 1940.
To appreciate how long ago the first high school football game was played at Alamo Stadium, ponder this: The attack on Pearl Harbor was still 15 months away, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was campaigning for an unprecedented third term, and Germany had just started its blitz of England.
A project of the Works Progress Administration, Alamo Stadium has stood as a monument for the past 73 years to one of the programs FDR created to help pull the country from the throes of the Great Depression.
Built for the San Antonio Independent School District at a cost of just less than $500,000 the district kicked in about $110,000 Alamo Stadium opened with a high school doubleheader Sept. 20, 1940.
Alamo Stadium was closed during 1983 regular season
The major improvements to the facility will cost $35 million, considerably more than it did to build it. The face-lift is part of a $515 million bond package SAISD voters approved in November 2010.
Alamo Stadium is expected to be ready for the start of the 2014 season, SAISD athletic director Gil Garza said.
The closure of Alamo Stadium for an entire season is not unprecedented. In 1983, the district moved all of its home games out of the facility to accommodate the USFL San Antonio Gunslingers. Clinton Manges, owner of the United States Football League franchise, paid for renovations that included artificial turf and an all-weather track.
It's been a big adjustment for us trying to accept the fact that we aren't going to play any games at home this season, Garza said. But when you think about what Alamo Stadium is going to look like a year from now, it gets you excited. You just have to look forward to that. It's down right now for a purpose.
Garza, who is in his 11th year as SAISD athletic director, lives near the stadium and passes by it on the way to work every day.
I definitely give her a wink when I go by there, Garza said, chuckling. The lights are down and everything is torn up right now, but she's going to be back and look better than ever.
Alamo Stadium, affectionately called the Rockpile by many San Antonians because of its limestone walls and architecture, has a rich history that continues to intrigue young and old. Located just north of downtown, it is also a cherished city landmark.
Some of the greatest high school football players in Texas history, including Tommy Nobis, Kyle Rote and Warren McVea, have played at Alamo Stadium.
Alamo Stadium was dedicated on a Friday night
That lore and tradition have given Alamo Stadium an aura that is undeniable.
Absolutely, Lovejoy said. You could feel that when you walked into Alamo Stadium. To walk into the stadium on the west side and look at the city was a feeling that overwhelmed you. It was a fantastic feeling and I'm glad I lived through it.
I know it's going to be different now, but the history and heritage will still be there. That won't ever change. I'm sad that we've lost some of the old, but I'm glad for the future generations that will have a chance to enjoy the stadium and make their own memories, just like we did.
Garza also expressed confidence Alamo Stadium will retain its aura after the renovation.
Alamo Stadium has a lot of history, tradition and nostalgia about it, he said. One of the things that the district really insisted on with the architects was keeping the historic design, and not compromising that in any way. I believe the architects and contractors have done a great job of maintaining the integrity of Alamo Stadium.
Fittingly, Alamo Stadium was dedicated on a Friday night.
An overflow crowd of 23,000 the stadium seated 22,174 watched Corpus Christi beatJefferson 14-0 in the opener and Brackenridge defeat Houston Reagan 19-2 in the nightcap of the doubleheader.
So much history, Lovejoy said.