LEWISTON — Let’s be clear about one thing straight away: the Lewiston Blue Devils football team can play on any field, anywhere.
The fact that they were playing on the new, state-of-the art Don Roux Field for the first time Friday was just extra incentive for the team to play hard.
“They’re chomping at the bit to get out there,” said assistant coach Matt Vierling, minutes before game time. “There aren’t a lot of fields like this in the state of Maine. It’s beautiful. It’s a boost for the city and it’s a great opportunity for the kids.”
That was the common sentiment Friday night as the city made it official: The field was dedicated by a series of speakers before the thunder of cleats and the roar of the crowd overcame the Franklin Pasture Athletic Complex.
“The pride we all feel right now,” Lewiston City Council President Kristen Cloutier said, “surpasses even what we imagined.”
“We’ve always been a community of great pride,” Lewiston High School Principal Jake Langlais said, “and these facilities coming together is a demonstration of what is possible when people stay committed to an idea, a concept and what ultimately became the reality before you.”
The sparkling newness of the field was apparent in several areas. Grass hadn’t yet grown up in some areas along the walking paths. Stairs to the press box were recently installed as were the bleachers on the visitor’s side.
There were even a few bugs to work out with the public address system as the speakers extolled the majesty of the new field.
“There are still a few loose ends,” Lewiston school Superintendent Bill Webster said, a moment after his microphone issued a screech of feedback. “But we have this field and we’re going to use it tonight.”
The bathrooms were completely done by game time. So was the concession stand, next to which school boosters sold their wares from beneath Devil-blue awnings.
“It’s so beautiful,” said Heidi Bisson, mother of Lewiston High School sophomore. “The entire complex is amazing.”
Even the press box, over the home team bleachers, seemed to rise higher than those found at other fields, an observation made by both Sun Journal sports writer Randy Whitehouse and Lewiston’s public address announcer Bob Blanchette.
It’s hard to believe, many marveled, that just two years ago, the idea of a new field was still mostly a hazy dream. But plans were made and the people of Lewiston overwhelmingly supported it, first in two straw polls and then in a 2016 referendum.
“Let this be a beacon of excellence,” Webster said, “and an example of what we are striving for in Lewiston to benefit our students, families and communities.”
The field is named for Don Roux, a 1951 LHS graduate who was a tight end for the 1949 and 1950 state championship teams. After attending Bowdoin College, he returned to Lewiston where he served for a time as chairman of the school committee.
“This field helps celebrate his life and his contributions to the city of Lewiston,” Lewiston Athletic Director Jason Fuller said.
Roux’s three daughters were at the field Friday night for the dedication ceremony.
The ceremony was brief. The crowd cheered steadily throughout it, but as game time approached, they became restless. Recognizing this, Fuller said his thanks, wrapped up his speech and turned it over to the Lewiston Blue Devils.
“Let’s play football!” he said.
The crowd thundered applause and a few minutes later on Don Roux Field, it was on.