ASHLAND — Putnam Stadium — not to mention the Ashland Tomcats — will be put to the test again tonight with Ironton coming to town. The 76-year-old stadium closed off 900 seats prior to the start of the 2013 season for safety reasons because of deteriorating concrete. Ashland administration was worried mostly about two games — the opener with Raceland and this week’s game with Ironton. The turnout for the season opener wasn’t as big as expected, maybe because of the seating problem, but you can expect a crowd for the Tigers regardless of seating capacity. Nobody travels bigger or better than Ironton. They will be among the first ones in the stadium, I guarantee it. Compounding the problem this week is the $12 million Verity Middle School project getting under way. What that means is that not only is the alley behind the stadium and Verity closed, but the entire Blackburn Avenue side of Verity, all the way to the street. There will be no parking on the Blackburn Avenue side due to the construction. Also, because of heavier than usual bus traffic, there will be no street parking on the Elm Street side of the stadium. The only stadium parking will be on the field adjacent to the stadium and in front of the stadium off 29th Street. Nearby Poage Elementary and the Wildwood Church of God also have parking.. Gates will not open until 6 p.m. Typically for this game, both sides are packed from top to bottom. It’s usually the best money gate of the season — one of those nights that funds a lot of sporting activity for the year — for whoever’s turn it is to host the game. In an almost ironic twist of fate, as Ironton comes over to a stadium with structure problems this week, the Tomcats will be the Tigers’ host next season when new field turf will be debuted in Tanks Memorial Stadium. Ironton expects to be kicking off on new turf on Sept. 19, 2014, against Ashland. An anonymous donation of approximately $450,000 was made to the athletic department a couple of weeks ago to help the Ironton turf project reach its goal. Part of the money will go to other athletic facilities as well such as a wooden basketball floor in the Conley Sports Center. Ashland could use some of those kind of donors for Putnam Stadium. The restoration committee and school system were about $300,000 shy of being able to complete Phase I of the project this spring. They are working toward that goal for the end of this season. But, for now, it remains to be seen if that can happen. The entire price tag for the Putnam Stadium restoration is in the neighborhood of $5 million and probably rising (that was last year’s estimate). They currently have about $1.3 million pledged. Those kind of numbers are a bit eye-popping and out of mind almost for Joe Tomcat, who unfortunately doesn’t see it as his problem. However, the Ashland community at-large should have a vested interest in keeping Putnam Stadium as the home of the Tomcats. It’s meant a lot to many people throughout the years as one of the memorable places be it for a concert, a band competition, a graduation or a football game from elementary to high school. To that end, the Ashland Credit Union is offering a way to give to the Putnam Stadium foundation. Anyone who signs up for a checking account can swipe their purchase, choose credit, and 10 cents will go toward the foundation. Jason Strader, a VP of operations at the Ashland Credit Union, said it’s crucial that the community, as a whole, get behind the restoration project before more of the stadium is deemed too unsafe. “You have to get more people involved,” he said. He’s right. The stadium has been around a long time, but she needs some help — and every little bit helps. Putnam Stadium belongs to the Ashland community, not just the school system. Maybe the credit union’s gesture will spur more community business support. Let’s hope so. It’s going to take village — and maybe even a little more from some badly needed cornerstone donors — to make it happen. Ironton will be proud to show off its new turf to the Tomcats in 2014. When will Ashland again be proud of historic Putnam Stadium? MARK MAYNARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.
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