History repeated itself in a good way Thursday afternoon with the formal debut of significant changes to the John H. Frederick Field at Memorial Park Stadium in Mechanicsburg.
The Wildcat Foundation hosted a ribbon-cutting for donors whose $1.5 million in contributions supported the capital campaign to construct the Rich Lichtel Field House and a new ticketing center.
The facilities were to be dedicated and handed over to the Mechanicsburg Area School District Friday night during halftime of the school’s homecoming game.
“It was a labor of love, first for the family and friends of Rich Lichtel, who founded the Rich Lichtel Fund and envisioned a field house in his memory over a decade ago,” said Holly Laufer, executive director of the foundation.
“Years later, the foundation is honored to partner with the fund to create this lasting tribute to a man who was a beloved teacher, coach, mentor and friend to so many; not just in Mechanicsburg, but throughout our greater central Pennsylvania community,” she said.
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In a news release issued Thursday, Laufer presented an overview of community generosity and support going back to 1919 when local merchants and businessmen raised funds to buy land adjacent to the stadium, which was owned by Mechanicsburg Borough and leased to the Mechanicsburg High School Athletic Association.
The land was renamed Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Park to honor those who served and died during World War I.
“At that time, football was in its infancy and what was to become a multi-use field and stadium was not yet envisioned,” Laufer said. Still, the Mechanicsburg Club, a local service organization, funded the construction of the first field house in 1947, she said.
Upon the death of Frederick in 1994, the Mechanicsburg school board recommended the field on the west end of the park bear the name of the teacher, mentor and school football coach from 1937 to 1957. Frederick served two years in the military during World War II.
The John H. Frederick Field was officially dedicated on Sept. 4, 1998. Earlier that year, the school board established the Wildcat Foundation to strengthen district educational, cultural, wellness and athletic programs.
In 2017, the foundation joined forces with the Rich Lichtel Fund to launch the recent capital campaign to bring about significant improvements to the stadium. With the exception of installing bleacher seating, pole lights and an artificial turf field, little had changed at the stadium since 1947.
The original field house has been upgraded and repurposed to accommodate modern ADA accessible restrooms, a training room, an officials’ locker room, storage space and a community family restroom.
“None of this would be possible were it not for the significant financial and in-kind donations made by businesses, large and small, and by individuals throughout the greater Mechanicsburg community and beyond,” Laufer said in the press release.
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