East Xtra: At long last, home field near reality for Central Catholic

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Central Catholic athletic director Chuck Crummie has trod this path before.

So, forgive this veteran teacher/administrator/basketball coach if he's not ready to do some cartwheels with the news that the Vikings' varsity football team might yet find a "home" that the all-male private school headquartered in Oakland can call its own for the 2013 football season.

"I have no sense of relief right now," said Crummie of the prospect that the Vikings could be playing its home football games at Highmark Stadium, the new facility adjacent to Station Square on the South Side with a capacity of about 3,500.

The stadium's primary tenant is the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the United Soccer Leagues Pro Division.

"I've been here before, but this time, I am cautiously optimistic," the longtime Central Catholic athletic director said.

Crummie has had several conversations with Jason Kutney, the Riverhounds' chief executive officer and director of youth development.

"Jason was responsible for the construction of the stadium," Crummie said. "I spoke with him about scheduling and the field, and he does have his plate full. We heard a new stadium was being built last summer, and I contacted him immediately."

Although the school has yet to reach an official agreement with the Riverhounds, Crummie has no doubt that a stadium that Central could use more than once or twice in a season would do wonders for the Vikings' football program and for its loyal fans. Some high school observers have joked that given the way the school has had to bump around from venue to venue over the years in search of a home field, Central might better be called the "Nomads" rather than the Vikings.

"[A permanent home field] would give us consistency," said Crummie, whose basketball team has not been forced into such a nomadic existence what with the on-campus Alumni Hall as a base of operation. "Students, alumni and fans would know where our home field is, and this would allow us to move forward. It really would be a home away from home for us."

In recent seasons, the Vikings have used several venues for their "home" games. Last year, the Vikings used Carnegie-Mellon's Gesling Stadium -- by far the closest facility to the school which is located on Fifth Avenue -- for one home game and Woodland Hills High's Wolvarena for two home games.

In an odd twist, Central played successive weeks at Fox Chapel. The first time, they were the "home team" in a 44-0 victory against Canon-McMillan. The following week, the Vikings used the visitors' locker room while drubbing the host Foxes, 35-3.

A year earlier, the 2011 team had three home games at Carnegie-Mellon and one at the Wolvarena.

Trips to the eastern part of Allegheny County could be problematic for the Vikings and their fans as the Squirrel Hill Tunnel will undergo massive repairs, forcing commuters heading in either direction to find alternate routes to their destinations.

While traffic on the South Side has its own issues, Crummie believes home games at Highmark Stadium would be an ideal setting for the Vikings and their fans.

"There's no question it would help our travel budget," he said. "It's good to know you can get there in a reasonable amount of time. Our travel time would diminish."

If the Vikings do get a consistent home, it would negate the "road warrior" mantra coaches have used since Central Catholic started playing football.

"We always talked about it as being something we don't have -- a home field," he said. "On the positive side, when you don't have a home field, you are battle-tested and ready for any challenge. We didn't have a home field, and we didn't care. Since we played on the road all the time, we were ready to play."

All of this, however, is conjecture at this point. Crummie and the Central administration have not yet to come to an agreement with Kutney and the Riverhounds.

Attempts to contact the Riverhounds' Kutney for comment were unsuccessful.

Crummie, though, sees some advantages to a Friday or Saturday night of Central Catholic football with so many restaurants and hotels within walking distance of the stadium.

"We think that you could have a game at the stadium and a reunion going on [afterward at one of the hotels]," he said. "We'd know where our home games would be every year, and we wouldn't have to worry about it."

One sticking point is that every fan would have to pay a parking fee before paying the admission fee at the gate.

"For a Steelers game, you might have to pay $20 to $25 to park there," he said. "For our games, the fans would have to pay $6 a car."



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