By ZACH GILLELAND
Fans inside Sea Gull Stadium saw jukes, spins, touchdowns and intense action, all while Salisbury’s football team was on the road.
The Wicomico Panthers’ Pop Warner football teams were granted a day of play at Salisbury University’s Sea Gull Stadium on Oct. 15. Friends and family from Wicomico County and all over the Eastern Shore came to watch their children play as the Panthers took on the Eastern Shore Gators in a series of games that began at 9 a.m.
Players ages 5-14 were treated to the same amenities that a college football team would receive. The players had access to the locker rooms and walked onto the field just like the Sea Gulls do.
Dr. Gerry DiBartolo, interim athletic director, was in attendance for the games. He said that this was a great way for the University to give back to the community.
“For many of these little guys, they have probably never played in a facility like this and we are very fortunate to have it,” DiBartolo said. “So to give them that opportunity to see when they came in the gate today, being able to get to go into the locker rooms and to play on the field, it has been great today.”
Many important figures in the Salisbury area took part in the opening coin toss, including Mayor Jacob Day. Music was played throughout the game and the scoreboard was in use, allowing spectators to keep track of the score.
The players were not the only ones that took part in the excitement. Some fans even took to announcing the games, providing play-by-play to those in attendance.
Anthony Lovett, of Easton, attended the game to see his grandson play. Lovett said it is very important for kids to be involved with activities while they are young.
“It keeps them off the streets,” Lovett said. “It keeps them from all the negativity going on around the world and shows them how to get along with others.”
It usually takes about $1 million to rent Sea Gull Stadium for a day. But for the youth teams, the costs to operate the stadium were covered by SU.
The concession stands were also open for all, featuring hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, french fries and more. The proceeds from the sales went directly to the youth programs.
Fans upgraded from small, cramped bleachers of local parks to the newly renovated $19 million Sea Gull Stadium, which includes many features such as individual seating.
Referees were present to officiate the games. Chris Stevenson, a referee, said he was there to give the kids something to occupy their time instead of getting in trouble.
“It gives them something to do,” Stevenson said. “It gets them to burn up some of that energy they have and they enjoy it.”
DiBartolo believes that this event will have a positive impact on the players.
“I think it will be one of those memories that will linger with them for a while about what a great experience that was,” DiBartolo said.
“[They will say] we got to play where the University team plays and to play on a field that is perfectly smooth, manicured and the turf is in great shape. I’m hoping that they came away with a real positive experience.”
With more people exposed to Salisbury and what the University has to offer, DiBartolo said he hopes that this event will bring more people back to Sea Gull Stadium.
“I’m hoping we might have exposed people to what this stadium is about, being on our campus a little more and see what it is like to watch a game in here,” DiBartolo said. “Maybe they will watch when our football team plays here or when our field hockey team plays here.”