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Renovated Welcome Stadium providing DPS with state opportunities

Feb. 27—The renovation of Welcome Stadium is bringing the Ohio High School Athletic Association state track meet back to Dayton this spring.

Dayton Public Schools Superintendent David Lawrence expects more football postseason games to be on the way, too.

The stadium, opened in 1949, hosted a playoff game between Cincinnati Withrow and Troy last year, and Lawrence said he expects the district to have "several" this fall.

That is thanks not only to the completion of a $33.5 million renovation of the 75-year-old stadium last year but also the complete thawing of relations between DPS and the OHSAA.

The organizations had been at odds since a 2017 investigation that started with accusations Mark Baker, then the DPS director of athletics, instructed the coach at Dunbar to throw a 2016 game against Belmont in hopes both could make the playoffs.

"We have totally recovered from that, and that is clear that the state has some faith in what we're doing down here athletically about us hosting the state track meet," Lawrence said.

OHSAA spokesman Tim Stried confirmed relations are positive between the organizations, and Lawrence said he expects to host another Greater Catholic League South game this fall after Moeller beat St. Xavier at Welcome last fall.

The ability to host postseason games is significant for the district as it can be a money-maker, and it allows the schools to show off what's new in an iconic facility that has hosted many memorable playoff games over the years.

"We could have torn it down and built a whole new space for $33 million, but we didn't," Lawrence said. "I think the site itself is a draw for the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

"The space itself in terms of how you access it from I-75, the availability of parking, hotels, food. It is a perfect venue to have just about anything, and so I think that I think all those things kind of played into it."

He also credited district business manager Tiffany Powell, who oversees athletics, for helping get the venue back on its feet.

The stadium hosted the state track meet from 1999-2003 when Ohio Stadium was undergoing a major renovation and Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium had not yet been built, and it is the longtime home of Dayton Relays, which are now named for Olympic gold medalist and Dayton native Edwin C. Moses.

Also the home of Dayton Flyers football, Welcome Stadium also hosted football state championship games in 1974 and '78 and more than 60 state semifinal games from '74-2014.

Powell touted the history of Welcome itself as a selling point and agreed with the notion having a glittering new facility on top of it should provide a shot in the arm to DPS athletics as a whole.

"Absolutely," she said. "Our kids want to play in a great place, and Welcome looks amazing.

"They want be a part of that. You know, Welcome has a rich history, and to play where a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle played once upon a time — I mean, it's special, especially in this area."

Lawrence, a Dunbar grad who was approved by the school board as permanent superintendent last week after serving in an interim role since July, said athletics can also be part of a district-wide effort to bring back students who are currently attending other schools.

"Once we can get coaches in place that are established, provide support for them across the board, that's one way to keep kids here and keep them interested in the team itself," he said "And, yeah, I do think sports and all extracurricular activities are a huge draw for other kids. I mean, Friday night football? You can't beat it.

"Friday night basketball and all the other sports — I think they're important as well. I go to swimming, wrestling. You may not hear about those sports as much. They may not be written about as much, but those kids matter. And their parents are out and their siblings are out and so yes, sports is a big thing."