Mathews High School plays a full schedule of football games on a well-lighted football field, complete with seating capacity for 2,100 spectators. Booster Field contains a press box, public address system, an electric scoreboard, a refreshment stand, and restroom facilities, all enclosed in chain link fencing, with ample space adjacent to the field. It is located on the grounds of Baker Elementary School, 4095 Sheridan Drive, Vienna.
The sport facility is appropriately named. Booster Field came about through the efforts of a group of civic-minded men and women who organized the Football Boosters Club in the hopes of adding football to the high school sports program. It started with perhaps a dozen or so men who wanted their sons to have the opportunity to play high school football and who organized the club to promote the idea.
The membership of the Club swelled, as many men and women enthusiastically joined in the effort. Mathews High School did not have a team; they didn't have a field; they didn't even have a football! But they had an abundance of desire, determination, and enthusiasm.
The first order of business was to raise funds, because properly equipping a football team is an expensive proposition. Innumerable raffles, bake sales, rummage sales, benefit dinners, dances, and outright donations of cash raised the necessary funds. The Fowler and Vienna communities responded generously, and funds gradually accumulated. The young men from the high school were thrilled with the possibility of having a football team.
By 1967 sufficient funds had been raised to outfit a tam with proper equipment and practice uniforms. The Fowler-Vienna School District Board of Education and administrators lent their support. A coaching staff was provided, and 38 boys turned out for the first team in 1967. The first year was devoted to teaching fundamentals and intra-squad scrimmages. All players were covered by insurance in case of injuries.
A few games were scheduled in 1968, but the team was still very inexperienced. They played hard and spirited football, but were unable to defeat their more experienced opponents. Progress was evident, however. The 1969 and 1970 seasons were much like the first competitive season: these teams, while showing progress, still had not tasted victory. But by now the football program had been expanded to the junior high school where the younger boys were being taught football fundamentals.
Meanwhile, the Boosters Club was actively supporting the team, supplying all uniforms and equipment as required, as well as a very vocal rooting audience. In addition, plans were formulated to erect a "home" football stadium. Until such a stadium could be built, fields at Lakeview and at Liberty high schools were rented for "home" games. (Sometimes the playing surface was so poor as to resemble a large mud hole.) The plans required quite a large area. A study of the available land at both the Mathews and Neal schools' sites found both locations to be inadequate. It was finally decided that the fifty or more acres of property next to Baker Elementary School the Board of Education owned would be an ideal location. Plans were drawn up and submitted to the Board of Education, which gave its approval to proceed.
As fundraising activities would permit, the project proceeded in carefully planned steps. First came site preparation. Hundreds of feet of drain tile were buried under the carefully crowned surface, and a sprinkler system was installed. Next came grading and seeding. A quarter-mile running track was constructed around the field's perimeter. The entire site was enclosed with chain link fencing.
In the fall of 1971 the Mathews Mustangs finally won their first football game at Pymatuning Valley. The team and their followers held a wild celebration in the pouring rain! The team's win-loss record gradually improved.
At the same time, bleachers were being provided for the stadium. With a minimum of earth moving, the "home" bleachers could be erected on an elevated terrace, providing ideal spectator visibility of the field and running track. This required a large expenditure of funds at one time, and it became necessary to borrow money from the local bank. The loan was secured by $1,000 notes signed by many individual Boosters and other community members. These notes and the loan were eventually retired by additional fundraising projects by the Boosters. The bleachers were purchased by the Boosters, who then poured foundations and erected the bleachers on the elevated terrace. It was beginning to look like a football stadium!
Other civic groups were getting the football spirit. The Kiwanis Club of Vienna purchased and erected an electric scoreboard. The Mathews Music Boosters provided a refreshment stand. The Football Boosters built a press box atop the bleachers and purchased a public address system. A ticket booth was erected. At long last, the stadium was ready for daytime football.
The first home game in the new stadium was scheduled in October 1973. Almost seven years had passed since the idea was first conceived--seven years of determined effort, hard work, diligent fundraising, and hundreds of hours of volunteer labor. It seemed the entire community turned out that beautiful October afternoon. The bleachers were filled to capacity with many more standing on the terrace. A holiday spirit prevailed. The Mustangs responded brilliantly by playing their best game of the year, and winning over Jefferson High School's team by a score of 40-0! It was, indeed, a gala occasion.
The Boosters' job, however, wasn't quite finished. The lighting system had to be installed. General Fire Proofing Company of Youngstown donated the lighting system from an abandoned softball field. With assistance from Ohio Edison, the poles and lights were moved to the field and erected. Finally, the Boosters erected visitors' bleachers that were purchased by the Board of Education. At last, the $75,000 project was complete. On November 9, 1974, the field was formerly dedication and the keys to the field were ceremoniously turned over from the Boosters to the Fowler-Vienna Board of Education at the first night game.
Booster Field has served the community well. It stands as an example of what a small community can do to help itself, by careful planning, perseverance, cooperation, and hard work.
This entry is adapted from James McMullen, "How Football Came to Mathews High School," in Vienna, Ohio, "Where We Live and Let Live": Town 4, Range 2 of the Connecticut Western Reserve (Apollo, PA: Closson Press, 1999), pp. 218-320.