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Stone Field Will Host Gardner High Football Games This Fall

August 12, 2018

GARDNER -- For better or worse, nostalgia permeates the fabric of North Central Massachusetts communities. Whether it be the buildings that date back to the latter decades of the 19th century (and are still standing) or to the knowledge of what once stood in certain areas before the wieldy arm of commercialization swept the region (I’m looking right at you, Whitney Field), folks in this area take solace in knowing what was great and good can still have a wonderful purpose here in the 21st century.

And for folks up in the Chair City, fans of Gardner High football will have the opportunity this fall to jump in the way back machine -- if only for one season.

New Gardner athletic director Dan Forte announced Saturday that for the 2018 season, the Wildcat football team will utilize Stone Field for its home games for the first time in two generations while Watkins Field undergoes its long-awaited $2.8 million renovation.

Reached Saturday afternoon, Forte noted the temporary return to Stone Field -- the former home of Gardner High football from the program’s inception until the school’s move to Catherine Street in 1976 -- was one of three options available while work on Watkins commences.

“We dug into a bunch of options,” he said. “We knew the schedule and we planned with other schools. We wanted to be flexible.”

Along with Stone, options including Mount Wachusett Community College’s fields along Green Street, which did not pan out due to the field being reserved for other organizations, as well as using another local school’s field.

Forte did not say what school had offered the use of their field.

“Their field is ready to go, they’d give us the gate -- but it would have put our seniors on the road all season,” he said.

Stone Field currently hosts the Gardner High baseball team, yet still boasts the football alignment within its boundaries: While the right-field foul pole is a short poke, the right-field fence continues to run away from the foul pole to allow hitters extra bases and higher RBI opportunities.

It’s also enough to maintain the length and width of a regulation gridiron.

Forte said that he and several others -- including legendary Gardner High football coach Walt Dubzinski Jr. -- walked the premises recently.

“Frankly, that grass is strong enough, so it can take a beating,” Forte said, noting there will be time to make the field baseball ready in the spring. “We’re excited about (returning to Stone). It means a lot to a lot of local families.”

As Stone is without lights, Gardner will play its home games at 1 p.m. on Saturdays, starting with the Wildcats’ home game against Tyngsboro on Sept. 8.

Gardner is also expected to host the annual Thanksgiving game with Oakmont Regional this November.

Forte added that bleachers from city parks will be moved to Stone in the coming weeks: while they will be small, they would be more than Gardner had last year as Watkins’ bleachers were condemned.

“We rented (portable bleachers) last year -- they are just expensive,” he said. “We wanted to be responsible (financially) with this.”

While the Wildcat football teams will use Stone, the high school’s soccer and field hockey programs -- which sometimes use Watkins -- will move to the spacious fields between the high school and middle school.

In addition, the middle school soccer program will use the Waterford Street School field this year instead of Stone.

As for Watkins, ground has yet to be broken for the renovation after the original bids were deemed too high and over the budget passed by the Gardner City Council in May. After it went out to bid a second time, the project has been cut back to just new bleachers, the turf field, as well as a new track.

Gone from the project are the concession stand and field house.

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