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Full speed ahead

August 15, 2012
By MARY ANN GREIER - Staff Writer , Morning Journal News

SALEM - Planners announced Tuesday the Reilly Wall Project is moving forward with a revised, less expensive plan to rebuild the north wall at Reilly Stadium and enhance the west side entrance to honor the stadium's history.

"The project will be done and it will be beautiful," city school board member Steve Bailey said.

The new plan was explained by Bailey, a member of the board's Building and Grounds Committee, and Salem Preservation Society President Keith Berger and SPS Vice President Karen Carter, both members of the Reilly Wall Project Committee.

SPS members approached the board two years ago with an ambitious project to replace the aging north wall of the stadium, build a replica of the original ticket booth and install a dedication park with trees, benches and pavers with information about the stadium's history. The cost was originally estimated at $650,000, with the group given until November 2012 to raise the funds.

The original plan included the cost of razing the north wall on Pershing Street, but the school board decided to shoulder the expense and had the crumbling wall removed in January, citing safety factors. Since then, a temporary fence has stood in the wall's place.

Citing both safety concerns and timing, Bailey said board members felt they should move forward and use permanent improvement funds to build a new wall now rather than wait, in part to avoid any liability issues, according to a joint press release.

The cost of the project which is being advertised for bids is estimated at $140,000 to replace the entire north wall with a 6-foot 4-inch wall composed of a knee-high wall of bricks with brick columns and wrought iron-like ornamental fencing in between. The board also will install a replica of the original wrought iron gate, and rebuild two sections of brick wall on the east side of the stadium behind the band shell. Finials (round balls) will be mounted on columns in four spots, including near the gates.

"We hope the project will be done by the end of October, if not sooner," Bailey said, adding it will depend on who gets the winning bid. "We definitely want it done before winter."

He explained that football and soccer all take place on the field, not the track, so work can be done during the day and cleaned up at night. He said anything's better than what they have now, with the temporary fence blocking the sidewalk in spots. He said one of the board's big concerns was safety.

Another issue was the timing. If they didn't do something at this point, they would have to wait until June because nothing could be done in the winter and track season starts in March and runs through June, using the entire track. It would have been harder to do the work.

Carter said the committee understood where the board was coming from in deciding to do something now, but said it does not in any way diminish the Reilly Wall project.

"We don't want people to think in any way that we're done. We're continuing our efforts to accomplish our goal to enhance the west side," she said.

The planned enhancements include a replica of the original ticket booth, with the size updated according to Americans With Disabilities Act requirements, a replica of the old north wall "built to honor the historic architecture of the era," according to the press release, and a Dedication Park which will include trees, benches and pavers which can serve as tributes or memorials to Salem High School graduates, classes, residents, organizations or businesses. The area will include the history of the stadium and highlight events from its past.

The estimated cost for the Salem Preservation Society's project on the west side, planned for construction next summer, is $200,000. The Reilly Project is pushing the halfway mark to that new goal, with Carter noting that hundreds of Salem residents and graduates from across the nation, from California to Maine, have contributed.

"There's been a lot of support," Berger said.

Trees are sold out, there are only three benches left for purchase at $3,000 a piece and six granite 24-inch by 24-inch pavers left to purchase at $1,000 each. The SPS is still selling 4-inch by 8-inch pavers for $100 each and 8-inch by 8-inch pavers for $150 each. Call Berger at 330-337-3341 or Carter at 330-332-4959 for a gift card, form or information about Dedication Park.

Berger said the whole idea is to keep the historic integrity of Reilly Stadium. The biggest thing they don't want to see happen is to have it remodeled to the point where it doesn't look like a historical structure.

"I think we are changing the scope of the project, what makes more sense, what's more viable to do...financially and aesthetically," Bailey said.

Berger said it's like a realignment. Sometimes people think preservation has to be rigid, but sometimes that's not practical and a project has to be realigned to make it more user-friendly.

"I think it's exciting, it's an exciting change," he said.

Not a lot of stadiums are located close to downtown, with a lot of businesses reaping the benefits of the location of Reilly. He said it's going to be very unique stadium for Salem, "distinctive to Salem's history, character and tradition."

Next summer the school board will finish up by fixing the parking area, including handicapped spots.

Bailey said the school board has been working hand-in-hand with the SPS on the project and appreciates all the hard work the members and volunteers have done. Berger echoed the sentiment regarding working with a school board concerned with the city's history.

When asked if they thought the smaller price tag might garner more support for the project, Carter admitted there were people who questioned the original cost. Some may not have donated because of that or because they didn't think the goal would be reached.

She said those people who were concerned about the cost will now feel more comfortable donating.



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