Feb 24, 2022
By Michael Boytim
Hershey Kisses will no longer be flying onto the field to celebrate a high school football team making it to the PIAA championship in Pennsylvania.
The PIAA announced Wednesday it accepted a bid from Cumberland Valley High School to host the high school football state finals for the next four seasons over bids from Hersheypark Stadium, Altoona Area High School and Penn State, which was offering Beaver Stadium as a site.
“Among the RFPs that were submitted, the Cumberland Valley facility was very competitive,” PIAA Executive Director Robert Lombardi said. “Especially with some of the changes that they will be making not only to adding a new field and changing the press box, but they also have an indoor surface that can be used as a training room and weight room, a media center, two artificial surfaces that can be used for walkthroughs and player locker rooms. There was quite a host of things that were very attractive along with a very nice financial package for us.”
Altoona athletic director Phil Riccio was disappointed a bid for Mansion Park to host the finals was unsuccessful.
“We sent them a heck of a proposal,” Riccio said. “We were excited about the proposal we put together with myself, our school district administration, Explore Altoona in cooperation with ABCD group and the (Blaiir County) Chamber (of Commerce). We felt we had all the bases covered whether it be with the facility, locker rooms, media rooms, administrative rooms at the stadium, our press box at the stadium, the size, we addressed the parking. We had everything covered.
“We haven’t seen the other proposals, but we made our proposal, and it is what it is.”
Altoona completed major upgrades to its playing surface and scoreboard prior to the 2021 high school football season to put it in a position to make its bid in addition to being centrally located in the state.
Mansion Park last hosted the PIAA football finals in 1998, and Hersheypark Stadium has hosted the finals every year since.
“Any time we can use our facilities and the resources we have to benefit our community, it’s our responsibility to do that,” Riccio said. “We have been very fortunate to be able to host a lot of PIAA events in many different sports that bring many people to our community, but bringing a three-day state championship tournament to Altoona and our facilities, the way that would help our businesses and region was something that was really high on my list.”
Cumberland Valley, located in Mechanicsburg, was also awarded the high school soccer, field hockey and volleyball championships. The cross country and tennis championships will remain at Hershey.
Cumberland Valley’s football field, Chapman Field, has a capacity of 8,000 and is scheduled to get a new playing surface later this year.
Lombardi addressed concerns that came up over the use of Beaver Stadium for six games over three days.
“We did look at that and took it very seriously,” Lombardi said. “Happy Valley Visitors Bureau got involved. But there are some real concerns there. Playing on grass for six games doesn’t fly real well. That’s a difficult thing. The number of people we have been drawing the past five years, I’m not sure we could have paid the bill. We were very honored that they considered us, and maybe that opens the door for venues like that going forward, because it was nice to be wanted, for once.”
N An appeal by Butler to continue to participate in the District 10 high school football playoffs despite being a member of District 7 was unanimously denied by the board. As a result, Butler’s two-year cycle playing in District 10 has been terminated.
N The PIAA encouraged its districts to begin discussing the feasibility of a shot clock in high school basketball, but no action was taken.
N Teams on the top of the bracket in the PIAA basketball playoffs will be allowed to host first-round games as long as they meet the following qualifications. Class 1A and 2A teams must have 500 permanent seats in their gym; Class 3A and 4A need a 750 capacity and 5A and 6A need a 1,000-seat capacity. The court must also be a minimum length of 84 feet and 50 feet, locker rooms for both teams and a locker room for officials.
N The PIAA approved on a third and final reading high school girls wrestling as an emerging sports program in the state.
N Arrows Christian Academy of Altoona was approved to join District 6 in middle school sports only.
N Shade and Shanksville-Stonycreek had a co-op in baseball and softball approved, and Berlin Brothervalley and Shanksville-Stonycreek had a co-op in high school track and field approved.
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