TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) - Little of the controversy over a new stadium in the City of Tonawanda was evident Friday night during its inaugural game.
Tonawanda High School's football program, already rich in tradition and history, began writing a new chapter with the official opening ceremonies at the new Clinton H. Small Stadium.
Larry Benn said, "I think it's really nice. What I'm surprised of is the fact that the bleachers don't go further... To me, there's not as much room to sit as there was in the old place. But obviously, you needed a new place. And that's what most schools are doing now."
Not everyone in the community welcomed building the "new place" on the high school grounds. Before it came up for public vote in 2011, three school board members' cars and homes were vandalized.
Taxpayers ended up approving $11.9 million in school improvements, including the stadium, art and music classrooms, by a three-to-one margin.
Now that he's finally getting a first look at the finished product, Tonawanda alum and former football player Dominic Reed is impressed.
"I wish we could've played on this field. It just looks awesome. Awesome field, and then just feels like a good environment right here and everything," Reed said.
Like its 100-year-old predecessor, the new Clint Small Stadium is named for man who coached and mentored so many Tonawanda athletes.
Benn said, "The old place definitely had that aura about it. You could tell. Even though I had only been going to a few games there, you could definitely tell there was something special."
Student Tyler Hubbell added, "Behind the football field, there was a little field that all my friends used to play football on. I had good memories over there."
The old stadium is gone, but the "togetherness" remains.
Patrick Kpaka said, "We play like family here. Everyone on this team's like a family. We help each other out, we pick each other up."
During opening ceremonies, the athletic department thanked everyone who helped support the new Clint Small Stadium, including the school board, former Superintendent Dr. Whitney Vantine, the neighbors along Fletcher, Hinds and Adam Streets, and the taxpayers.
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