Von Ray Harris was a working man.
The former Lincolnton High football coach did more than win 187 games. He instilled a work ethic in those who played for and coached with him, and that ethic lives on today in the school’s stadium upgrade project.
Lincolnton is currently in the process of raising funds to complete a two-phase construction project that will upgrade Memorial Stadium.
Phase 1 of the project –– a new scoreboard, new goal posts and a monument dedicated to the man who helped build Lincolnton football into a state powerhouse –– is complete. The second phase, which includes upgrades to the field house and visitor’s side seating, is in the planning stages, and is projected to be completed by August of next year.
As its name bares, the already-made and planned upgrades to Memorial Stadium are as much a part of remembering the history than it is preparing for the future.
“Like Coach Harris used to say, you need to put back into the program,” said Clyde Smith, a former assistant football coach under Harris and former assistant principal.
The upgrades began when the county provided money through bonds to do some much-needed repair and upgrade work to the track around the field.
It was then a group of members of the booster club, including Smith, decided to give Memorial Stadium a face lift.
The project has been and will continue to be funded by private funds, including a $75,000 grant issued to the club by The Timken Company, a global manufacturer with a plant in Lincoln County.
Former athletes and friends have raised an additional $40,000, Lincolnton Athletic Director and head football coach Scott Cloninger said.
The stadium opened in the 1960s with private funds during the early years of Harris’ 28-year tenure. Since then the press box has been rebuilt using private funds, along with other enhancements.
Memorial Stadium isn’t just home to the Wolves on Thursday and Friday nights, and to the Lincolnton Middle School Wildcats on Wednesdays. It’s a stadium used for several community events held each year, including the Special Olympics, Relay for Life events, the annual Fourth of July fireworks celebration, church revivals and more.
Since it’s a stadium built by the community for the community, using private funds just makes sense.
“There’s tons of people that use this facility,” Cloninger said. “It’s used by the community.”
Cloninger, along with about a dozen other booster club members who are part of the planning committee, met Tuesday to discuss Phase 2 of the project.
Planned for the second phase is: To extend the field house another 10 feet to provide more room for storage; the placement of an arched roof, inside of which will house a meeting room/coach’s office; to extend the locker rooms and to add additional handicap seating on the visitor’s side.
“If you’re going to go first class, then you need to take care of your visitors, too,” Cloninger said.
Most of those on the committee either played football at Lincolnton or have other ties to the program in some way.
Max Garner, a 1957 graduate of the school who helped start the Lincoln County Sports Hall of Fame, left the school two years before Harris began his tenure in the fall of 1958.
While Garner never played for the late coach after whom the field is named, he still feels his impact.
Garner loves to be involved in Lincolnton athletics. After all, it reminds him of the good ol’ days, he said.
A fitting tribute to a stadium dedicated to making memories old and new.
“I feel young,” Garner said, “like a kid.”