Let’s talk about Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium. Our favorite place to be on a fall afternoon in Northeast Texas. I would have a hard time believing that when then-President Dr. James Gee, Coach Milburn Smith, US Speaker of the House and ETSU Sam Rayburn, and Lt. Governor Walter Woodul, along with 12,000 fans in attendance on a crisp fall evening in September of 1950 would ever imagine their Memorial Stadium “ex students project” would ever turn into what it is today. A monument to the fallen Lions who died in World War II that has seen some great college football with NFL legends that have played on that field and National Champions crowned, a lot of great Lion memories made and a lot of Lion hearts broken. It is no more what it once was.
First, you have to take into account what the stadium originally was. Back when it was constructed, the current west side structure had seating for 10,000 fans on the west side, along with seating on the east side for 2,000 visiting fans. In the late 1970’s, it became a one sided stadium again and from time to time and would have portable stands for events such as Homecoming games or when hosting NAIA postseason games.
Over the past decade, the stadium has been massively improved and I think we all know that. A jumbotron, state of the art football facilities in the stadium, 3,500 east side seats along with a stadium wide wifi network. A track and field facility that is second to none, 1,000 new chair back seats, and of course, a name identity having it called Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium. A new ticket and box office, storage areas have become gift and fan shops, and a much improved fan area and concession stand.
Now, its time for the needs and wants list. Here is what we NEED.
A New West Side Press Box-My Gosh, I appreciate access to the box but it is in DIRE need of not only repair, but expansion. The coaches boxes are very small, the media area is cramped and doesn’t have the best ventilation, and only have one bathroom and no place to sit down and have a small meal break during the course of the game. Also, the top of the press box where the games are broadcasted from via cameras are abysmal and also not kept from the elements, and we also need a crowd microphone for the Lion Radio Network. The Press box needs at least another 2 stories, or needs to be rennovated length wise to accommodate the coaches boxes, the working press, the actual media, and the game operations. Plus, the AD should have a his own box, especially this one.
New Bathrooms on the west side-All you need to do is take one look and you know what I am talking about. We need them BADLY.
A new facade on the west side-I have no idea what the west side is made of, but the stadium is now 70 years old and has never had a change in the facade, and we NEED a new outside facade. Cracks are getting into the stadium in the outside and inside. A great example would be Kyle Field’s new brick facade down in College Station at Texas A&M.
Now, here is our wish list-(Things that are not necessary, but nice to have).
Planted Trees and landscaping on the North Side-Something everyone has joked about through the years is how much free advertising McDonalds, Tokyo Express, and Subway have gotten because you seem their establishments so easily from the south looking north. You can do one of two things. You can put some stands there, but that is no good because of the way the stadium is laid out, so planting some trees, like some cedar elms which are native to the Texas Blackland Prairies, would be perfect to plant on the side of the northern stadium fence. Cedar trees are beautiful and also evergreen trees, so they can stay nice looking all year long. Just watch out for those spring time allergies.
A Football Hall of Honor-Similar to what they have at a lot of stadiums, a place where we can honor championship teams and all time great players. It is a great place to show off to recruits the caliber of player that have worn the blue and gold and who the folk heroes in Commerce are.
Tunnel-Just a place for the players to rune out of from the locker rooms to the field that really pumps the place up and the players. We used to have something similar to this and it is probably in storage.
Bring King Pride Back-King Pride is an icon. He is part of Lion Football lore, and having the players run through the tunnel and under King Pride would bring back some very fond memories. He deserves to be there. Bring him back.
Victory Bell Replica-This will take someone donating their own time and money, but creating a replica of the Victory Bell along with an inscription listing it’s tradition. The cheerleaders should ring the bell after every score and allow a player to ring the bell after every win, and after the roll call, ringing it as many times as the points we have scored. Keep it in the facility and have the players touch it before going out and keep it on the sidelines by students and cheerleaders, just like they did in the old days. Bring back this tradition.
One of the reasons we have so much to do is because of the neglect so many of our sports facilities experienced with previous administrations. Now, we have an AD that is doing everything he can to make our facilities Best In Class, we, as a fan base, need to step up and join him in that effort and remember, these things take time and cost money. Let’s do our part, we will enjoy it so much more when we do.