Navy's football stadium gets face-lift

New paint, plants, trail improve athletic `eyesore' in time for season's start

September 05, 2004|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

As thousands of Naval Academy alumni flocked to Annapolis over Labor Day weekend for the first home football game of the season, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium was ready to show off its new good looks - and a new community walking trail.

Construction workers put final touches on the $40 million, three-year renovation project until the last minute Friday, with ice cream vendors, painters and landscapers putting things in place.

Bright coats of blue, gold and gray paint had the refurbished stadium looking like a large, trim ship that had just emerged from the yard.

"Before it was kind of an eyesore, and I'm hoping when people show up, they'll see a huge improvement," said Kevin Sinnett, an assistant athletic director who oversaw the stadium improvements. "This will give us a true home-team advantage."

Visible off Rowe Boulevard as visitors approach the capital's historic district, the stadium had been regarded for years as a drab piece of functional design at best, a perception Navy officials hoped to change.

The Naval Academy Athletic Association, a private alumni organization, raised the needed funds, said Sinnett. He said he expects the stadium to become a showpiece for the academy in recruiting athletes.

The most striking difference is the addition of arches on the south, war-memorial side of the stadium and on the east side, where many visitors enter. Navy officials said the arches unify the stadium with a symbol of military character and enhance the facade of what was a bare-boned facility.

A new press box, a banquet room, a lacrosse hall of fame and 10 game-viewing suites also were added, along with two walking ramps.

Other details include a black fence to replace a chain-link fence and colorful plants, trees and grasses.

Also part of the project is an unusual joint venture between Annapolis and the Naval Academy, a 1.2-mile trail for walking and biking on the stadium's perimeter.

The trail, which opened to the public this summer, is a hit with local residents.

The city and the Naval Academy Athletic Association will share responsibility for maintaining it, said Jan Hardesty, a city spokeswoman.

"The trail is a wonderful asset and an everyday reminder of the partnership between the Naval Academy and the city," Hardesty said.

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