There were white lights, two goal posts, two 25-second clocks and a scoreboard, Harker Heights head football coach Mike Mullins told his team.
The Knights beat the Shoemaker Grey Wolves 28-12 in the debut game at the Hood Stadium Complex on Friday night. Mullins was very positive about his team’s first experience playing at the $14 million stadium, which features arm-chair seating for 5,500 spectators, a blue, eight-lane track and a grass field.
“To be able to go out there, first game and obviously to get a win, made it that much better,” Mullins said.
The game marked the first of three games to be played at the facility. The Killeen Kangaroos host the Belton Tigers on Friday and Shoemaker hosts the Ellison Eagles in the regular season finale on Nov. 9. The venue was supposed to open for an Oct. 12 game between Ellison and Harker Heights, but rains the week prior delayed the debut.
“I thought it was a good event for us, for Killeen (Independent School District) and for Fort Hood coming together,” said Shoemaker head football coach Channon Hall. “I feel like they were prepared. Of course it wasn’t 100 percent ready like they were expecting, but at the same time, you saw the work they put in to make it playable for us.”
Half of the Killeen ISD student population has a direct connection to Fort Hood in some form or fashion. So, when the nation’s largest military installation decided to build a new sports complex, Killeen ISD set out to forge a partnership that allows the district to host two home games on Friday nights instead of Thursday night or Saturday afternoon games. The school district’s two areas of concerns — public access to the on-post facility and spectator seating on only one side of the field — were largely non-issues, Killeen ISD Director of Athletics Tom Rogers said.
“There was small congestion issues at heavy times. Everybody that I asked ... nobody was upset at all,” Rogers said of traffic getting on post.
Fort Hood officials designated the Clear Creek Gate as an entrance-only gate beginning at 4 p.m. Friday solely for game-day traffic. The gate remained that way until being changed to outbound only as the game began to wind down.
As far as fans from both schools sitting on the same side of the field, Rogers said they tended to gravitate toward their school’s cheerleaders, away from the section along the 50-yard line, which was designated for home fans.
“We were really pleased,” Rogers added. “We did a lot of planning and worked with Fort Hood and all the players out there (to make this a success).”
More than football
The new facility was built to replace Prichard Stadium, which was opened in 1951 and torn down to make room for the new $500 million Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center. The new field was named Prichard Field in honor of the old stadium and Maj. Gen. Vernon E. Prichard, who was a former commander of the 1st and 4th Armored Divisions, a West Point graduate and an All-American quarterback and team captain for the Army football team that went 9-0 in 1914. It is also the closest thing to a home field that the Grey Wolves can get on Friday nights in the fall.
Before the partnership between Fort Hood and Killeen ISD to play games at Hood Stadium, Shoemaker was one of four teams that played at Leo Buckley Stadium, the school district’s primary stadium on the campus at Killeen High School more than eight miles away from Shoemaker. So, while the Grey Wolves were the visitors against Harker Heights on Friday, they tried to make themselves at home.
“We were trying to treat it as (a home game),” Hall said. “Being so close and travel and different things like that, it definitely had its advantages for us. I thought the environment was a pretty neat atmosphere,” Hall added.
But football isn’t the only thing the new stadium will be used for. It will serve not only for recreation, but as an entertainment venue for soldiers and families.
“This is soon to be one of the best facilities on Fort Hood,” said Brig. Gen. James Richardson, III Corps and Fort Hood deputy commander during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning.
The field will be used by Fort Hood for intramural football as well as annual events including Freedom Fest, Month of the Military Child, Earth Fest and other concerts and carnivals.
“It’s not only a benefit for soldiers and families, but all of Central Texas,” Richardson said. “We wish all the teams the best of luck as they compete on the field of dreams at our new stadium.”
A concert stage and four-field softball complex are expected to be completed by the end of this year, Dosa said. Construction of a covered picnic pavilion is under way.
Rose L. Thayer contributed to this report.
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