Through a collaborative partnership between the City of Athens and Ohio University, the football community of Athens will be able to move its program from the swampy land behind East State Street to Ohio University-owned land next to the city’s West State Street park.
Ohio University owns the driving range east of West State Street Park. Although it will retain the driving range for golfers, the space between the golf course and the university’s innovation and research facilities will serve as a new football pitch.
“The City of Athens is delighted with the opportunity that comes with this new partnership,” said Andy Stone, Director of Service Safety for the City of Athens. “The West State Street Park complex is a beloved recreation area serving large swathes of the city, university and metropolitan area.”
The stadium move comes after the urging of the local football community, which has been frustrated by persistent flooding and poor grass conditions at the old stadium on East State Street. A short-term arrangement was put in place in May that runs through the end of the year. Then the city and the university will have a long-term agreement on land use.
“Adding football on good ground is another common sense use in the field, which is beneficial to the university and the community. It is truly a win-win partnership,” Stone said.
Through the cooperation between the city and the university, golfers and footballers will coexist in a large green space that matches their respective sports and will eventually be separated by nets. Meanwhile, with footballers absent on East State Street, the city of Athens will keep a stadium to improve the ground.
“Supporting recreational activities for our entire community benefits everyone, including our students,” said Mark Ferguson, Executive Director of Wellness and Recreation. He said the new arrangement and planned improvements will preserve driving range and add high-quality field space for students and the community to enjoy while taking advantage of the underutilized space.
Kathryn Ann Jordan, director of the Athens Department of Arts, Parks and Recreation, worked alongside the Athens Ohio Football Organization to identify ways the city could support the football community. She has also been involved in conversations with Ohio University
“I am so excited to see all of our hard work paying off. This is a great example of how the City of Athens and Ohio University can work together to support the needs of our community.” “Together, we can continue to create new and better opportunities for all members of our community.”
“It is exciting to see the City of Athens and Ohio University working together to build a permanent football headquarters in Athens,” said Shauna Switzer of the Athens Ohio Football Association. “While there is still much more to be done for the new facility, we look forward to a future in which the West State Street site becomes a true center for recreational and community sports for our region.”
She said football is a multi-generational sport that attracts players of all ages and skill levels from all over southern Ohio to play in Athens. Stone also noted that the park attracts all kinds of recreators, from kids who play baseball and softball, to dog walkers and cyclists.
“Great things happen when we work together,” Switzer said.
Ohio University and the City of Athens have a history of teamwork to serve OHIO students and the Athens community.
“The City of Athens and Ohio University have a long history of working closely together to improve our shared communities,” said Shauna Wolf, associate vice president for university planning. “Part of that is because of our ability to sit together and share and discuss our needs together with the realization that we are better when we care together.”
In 2018, Ohio University and the City of Athens won the Larry Abernathy Award for Enhanced Sense of Place from the International Association of City and Dress. Both were honored for their collaboration in promoting a sense of place for students, community members, and visitors to Athens and OHIO. Recognized projects include the Ridges Framework Plan, the Richland Avenue Pedestrian Trail, East State Street Improvements and the Bobcat Pass Program.