The Dart: A piece of history

Published 9:01 pm Wednesday, July 23, 2008

They say life begins at 40 – but that’s the end of an era for Memorial Stadium in downtown Demopolis.

Four decades after its inaugural season, the stadium will no longer host high school football contests after the 2008 season.

Built and opened in 1968, the stadium has seen a host of championship-level football in several different classifications.

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While many on the team have yet to think about it, the history of the stadium will likely come into play sometime during the season, Demopolis High School football coach Tom Causey said.

“We really haven’t talked about it yet,” Causey said. “We will probably work that in sometime during the season.”

The 2008 Tigers will have something to live up to, the coach said.

“There have been some great football teams that have played in that stadium,” Causey said. “There is a legacy of great football played in that stadium. You don’t want to leave a stadium like that in a bad way. You want to leave on a high note – on a winning note.”

But the stadium won’t stay unused for long. Plans are in place for the facility to host youth and middle-school football games.

The stadium originally had a capacity of 2,500, but an expansion project put in 500 more seats. The new stadium should hold nearly 6,000 when it’s completed.

But the new stadium won’t be complete for nearly another year.

“We had hoped to be able to play one football game in the new stadium this season,” DHS Principal Dr. Isaac Espy said. “That is not likely to happen.”

But the competitive nature of football keeps many rooting for this season in the stadium to last as long as it possibly can.

“We are going to be excited to have our own facility on our own campus,” Espy said. “But we hope this coming season lasts a long time – hopefully through the fourth round of the playoffs.”

That would put the Tigers back in the finals, competing for a state championship. DHS won the 4A championship in 2004, and had a strong run in the 2007 5A playoffs.

And that’s just touching on the deep history seen by Memorial Stadium. Not bad for a facility that needed a $2,500 loan from the city just two weeks before the 1968 season began.

Without that money, the stadium would not have been ready for the first game of the season. And at the time, it was a state-of-the-art facility.

“I bet that even the biggest high schools in the state do not have the facilities we do in this stadium,” then-councilman Burke Strong told The Times in an August 14, 1968 interview. Strong motioned for the city to loan the stadium authority $4,000 to complete work on the stadium. Instead, the city approved just more than half that amount.

The faith and monetary help the city extended was justified just a couple of weeks later when Demopolis opened up the 1968 football season by dominating York, 35-7.

The Dart is a weekly feature where staff members go out in search of an unusual or compelling story. It runs Thursdays.