South Bend St. Joseph will finally open its new football Stadium Friday night. It's been 59 years in the making.
The Indians have never had their own home field, but a brand new high school brings in the new Father Bly Field at Leighton Stadium.
St. Joe (2-1) opens the new digs against undefeated Elkhart Central at 7:30 Friday night with pre-game festivities beginning at 6:45pm.
It's been a chaotic journey to the new stadium for the football program, which didn't get to practice at the new place until Thursday. All week, players have been transporting their gear in their cars because they weren't sure if they would be practicing at the old high school or the new one.
So Thursday was a landmark day.
"We are relieved to actually have a practice here," St. Joe coach Ben Downey explains. "We want to feel as much at home before a very tough game."
Perhaps its fitting that the Indians will feel almost as much as the road as Central will considering St. Joe's history of always playing on the road.
"The fact of the matter is we are not ever used to being comfortable on a field," Downey explained. "We're used to always having to rely on each other, rely on our coaching staff and our players to come together. Regardless of where we are at--always play the same type of game and that's what we will be forced to do [Friday]."
"It's exciting," says senior safety Mike Swift. "People at school are talking about it--parents, friends, family. "It's really special. Special to represent the St. Joe family and be the first team to have a home game here. It's just amazing--it's beautiful."
The new field is named after long-time St. Joe priest, Father Walter Bly who taught at St. Joe for 44 years before retiring four years ago. Father Bly still serves as the chaplain. He was the freshman football coach for 15 years.
Alums have been raising donations for the new field to be named after Father Bly for a long time.
"I'm really excited," continues Downey. "As an alum of St. Joe and a former player, I'm excited there is actually a place to call home."
Adding to the excitement Downey says is the opponent. Central is 3-0 and boasts an explosive offensive attack that could lead to one unpredictable game. Considering the setting, Downey says that will make this one of the best games in town.
Construction on the new stadium continued on Thursday and will continue on Friday as well. Capacity at the stadium is 3,500 in terms of seats but there is tons of room for standing room only and St. Joe plans to welcome in anyone that wants to see the game.