Is it safe to attend varsity football games at Manchester Memorial High's Chabot-McDonough Field?
It's a reasonable question, considering that three times in two years Memorial principal Arthur Adamakos has switched a game originally scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. to a daytime start.
Both this season and last, Adamakos moved a scheduled Friday-night home game against city rival Central to Saturday afternoon. This week, he moved kick-off for Friday's game against Pinkerton Academy of Derry from 7 to 4 p.m.
"Absolutely, it's safe," Adamakos said of the environment at Chabot-McDonough. "If it weren't we wouldn't have the game there. The time change was at the request of Pinkerton Academy. They said they wanted to move it, and we said 'No problem.'"
Adamakos, Pinkerton athletics director Tim Powers and Memorial athletics coordinator Jack Quirk all declined to say why Pinkerton made the request, but Adamakos said the game would have remained scheduled for 7 p.m. if circumstances hadn't made a time change advantageous for all concerned.
Chabot-McDonough usually is reserved for varsity soccer games on Friday afternoon, Adamakos said, but this week the Crusaders' girls' and boys' teams were both scheduled to play on Saturday instead. On top of that, he added, Friday night's weather forecast called for rain, with the heaviest downpours expected around 8 p.m.
So why play Pinkerton Friday afternoon rather than Saturday? SATs and soccer, Adamakos said. SATs run into early afternoon, and the girls' soccer team has a game scheduled for 3 p.m.
The rescheduling of the Central games is another matter, Adamakos conceded.
"When we have intra-city games at night, people who are not students — often young people who are recent graduates — tend to go and be disruptive," he said. "The football team would rather play at night, but I've felt it's in the best interest of the people who are going to go to the game anyway — the athletes, the band members, the real fans — to play those (intra-city) games during the day. And since we've done that, we have had zero issues."
Memorial football coach Peter Colcord reluctantly agreed.
"When you have Memorial and Central playing a night game, some things can get out of hand," Colcord said. "At Memorial, we just don't have enough administrators to patrol the grounds. Arthur has always felt it's easier to patrol the grounds during the daytime hours. I would prefer we play Central at night, but I can't blame Arthur for moving the games. Safety issues always come first."
Ward 9 school board member Arthur Beaudry said it's safe to attend night games at Memorial, but added that he supports Adamakos whenever the principal deems it necessary to move a game to an afternoon start.
"Safety of students and fans is paramount," Beaudry said. "Internally, I'm sure Arthur and the entire administration staff at Memorial had good reasons to switch the games."
Beaudry acknowledged there are pockets around Chabot-McDonough Field, particularly between the high school and Southside Middle School, where people looking for trouble can congregate, especially in areas where it's dark and out of sight from the general public.
"Fights, drinking, you name it — things can happen at night," said Beaudry. "I can assure you if Central was hosting Memorial this year at Gill Stadium on Friday night, and if Central administrators were concerned about safety issues, they would have switched the game to Saturday afternoon, as well."
Beaudry has been a supporter of moving all city football games to daylight starting times.
"I have, but for different reasons," he said. "Every time we flick the light switch before 8 o'clock, we're paying $1,000 in surcharge fees. I support day games for budgetary reasons. But I can understand the long tradition Manchester has of playing night games, too."
Beaudry said having Central and Memorial play football during the daytime in years past would have been met with protest and resistance.
"Today we live in a different era, with social media being the way it is," said Beaudry. "The city and the schools have an obligation of making sure our sporting events are safe for the public. We certainly don't want to be liable for something that happens which we could have controlled ahead of time."
From this corner, I have no problem with Adamakos moving night games for crowd-control reasons. The landscape surrounding Memorial is difficult to patrol.
That said, Memorial-Central football games should be played at night. If Adamakos deems the game unsafe to play at Chabot-Memorial Field, move it to Gill Stadium. The players (and school bands) should have the opportunity to experience a city rivalry game under the lights and create all the memories that come from that experience.
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OPENINGS remain available for foursomes in the Friends Tournament, a charity golf event scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 10, at Candia Woods Golf Links in Candia. Proceeds will go the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Manchester. Last year the event raised more than $10,000.
Shotgun start is at 9 a.m., with registration starting at 8.
Registration can be done online at www.friendsgolfing.com or by contacting Christine Telge at 703-6955. Bonneville and Sons will award a car for a hole-in-one.
"City Sports" is published Saturdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email staff reporter John Habib at firstname.lastname@example.org.