Erickson a source of pride

Can you imagine creating one of the largest high schools in the Mountain State and failing to provide it with adequate athletic facilities?

That’s what the Wood County Board of Education did when Parkersburg South High School opened its doors.

The school’s athletes didn’t have a home football stadium. They didn’t have a home basketball court. Those teams were forced to play their “home” games on the campus of their biggest rival, Parkersburg High School, even though they seldom if ever got to conduct practice at Stadium Field or Memorial Fieldhouse. Football practices were conducted on the front campus, where two goal posts were erected. Track practices took place on an oval of black cinders that surrounded the football practice field.

Since those humble beginnings, South has come a long way. The Erickson All-Sports Facility is a source of pride, as virtually every person who lives south of the Little Kanawha had a hand in funding it, whether they made a large donation to the cause or simply got their car washed by those raising funds.

Notice that ever since Erickson was constructed and South teams had a home to defend how much improved those teams have become. South no longer plays second fiddle to Parkersburg High. It has become Parkersburg’s athletic equal, with city superiority going back and forth.

I’ll never forget the launching of the Erickson project. It seemed like an overwhelming task fit for one of those episodes of Mission: Impossible. The amount of money necessary was staggering. The construction project overwhelming. I vividly remember standing in a hole with Jack Murray and watching him outline where everything was going to go. A master at contracting, Jack had the vision and the knowledge to know it could be done. The rest of us, while not wanting to be nay-sayers, were hopeful but highly skeptical. It was like rooting for your team to win the championship. You want it to happen, but you know the odds are stacked against it taking place.

Erickson was blessed with a leadership group that simply refused to lose. Local attorney Rick Bush became its president, a position he still holds today. He surrounded himself with people who shared his vision, had unique knowledge of their particular field of expertise, and were determined to see this project through no matter how many hurdles they had to clear, how much time and labor they had to put in or how many materials they had to beg, borrow or at least ask to purchase at “kinfolk” price.

Today, Erickson sits as an example of our community spirit. It’s a blue-collar stadium in a blue-collar town. As homes go, it’s not a mansion, but it’s comfortable and its ours. And since we built it from the ground up, we have the pride of a sense of ownership.

It was sad to read of the passing of Charles F. Erickson, the son of Charles O. Erickson, the man who donated the property where the stadium sits. The name Erickson is a good name around the state in general and in Parkersburg in particular.

The stadium, the many college alumni centers and other entities that bear the Erickson name will serve as a lasting tribute to a family that shared its fortune with others.

Contact Dave Poe at dpoe@newsandsentinel.com