Presented by Bettye Lessley:
Sylacauga officials received notice in February of 1946 that they would be receiving a fair share of the Federal Works Agency’s recent allocation of the state. They were advised that of the $23,275 granted Tuesday for planning four Alabama projects estimated to cost $731,500, Sylacauga would get $2,025 for plan preparations for its new stadium. The stadium was to be built at at estimated cost of $76,500. The announcement was made by Senator Lister Hill. There would also be funds for assistance and operation of Sylacauga schools.
The local newspapers reported in November of 1946 that work on the Donald Comer Stadium would probably get underway around January 1. There was a question as to whether or not the needed steel could be secured, but it was believed that the outlook was good at the present time. Charles McCauley, Birmingham architect, submitted a drawing of the stadium that week which could be seen in the office of Superintendent, C. L. Martin. The stadium was to be a two story structure with four ramps. It would be longer and higher than the high school building and would seat 4,000 people. The present temporary seats were to be moved to the east side of the field, making the seating capacity approximately 6,000. The newspaper article indicated that the cost of the stadium would be approximately $75,000.
In December of 1946, Mayor Miles Motes advised that barring any unforeseen difficulty, actual work on the new athletic stadium would get underway shortly after the first of the year.
Work on the Donald Comer Stadium, which was to be located on the site of the present football field across from Sylacauga High School, was in progress by March of 1947. Plans called for an initial seating capacity of 3,500, and the stadium was to be constructed so that it could be enlarged later. Restrooms, showers and perhaps some class rooms for vocational education were to be built beneath the stadium. Charles McCauley was the architect, and Miles Motes was in charge of the construction. The plans for the cost of constructing that part of the stadium were estimated at $90,000.00. It was being financed by the City of Sylacauga with the help of Avondale Mills, B. B. Comer Post of the American Legion and a few others.
The Sylacauga News of March 6, 1947, reported, “The Stadium will be used for all types of community activities, but principally football games in which the teams from the Sylacauga High School and the B. B. Comer Memorial School participate. It is felt that adequate seating arrangements will greatly enhance the attendance at these games and that the stadium will be a tremendous asset to the entire community.”
In July of 1947, The Sylacauga News reported under its “Casual Comments” column that “To honor heroic war dead above his own name, Mr. Donald Comer has requested me to change the name of our new stadium to Legion Stadium. This is a noble, unselfish man, and the change in name has been carried out according to his wishes. (Signed) Miles Motes, Mayor.”
The first football game was held in the stadium on Friday night, September 12, 1947, when the Sylacauga Aggies played Pell City. Coach Black led the Sylacauga team. The game was tied 6-6. Both of the local football teams began the 1947 season by meeting two of their toughest opponents of the year in their very first game. On Saturday night following this game, the Comer Tigers and Coach Eubanks traveled to Tallassee. Comer lost to Tallassee 19-0. Admission costs at this time were 35 cents and 75 cents.
The new stadium was actually dedicated on November 12, 1948, when the always exciting Comer and Sylacauga game was played. The game ended with Comer 13 to Sylacauga 6.
At a press conference on November 18, 1948, Sylacauga’s new mayor, Ed Howard, asked for the refinancing of the stadium. He announced that he would ask the City Council for a plan of refinancing Legion Stadium in order to improve the city’s cash position as a result of over $79,000 having been paid to construction of the stadium from general funds. The land cost was $10,000, building the stadium was $154,693.91, making a total of $164,693.91 (plus fencing $1,22.370).
Donations include: Avondale Mills, $15,000; Hugh Comer, $5,000; J. Craig Smith, $100; American Legion Post 63, $15,000; loan by Avondale Mills, $50,000. Balance due on stadium, $50,000. Mayor Howard stated that this represented the balance according to available figures. The cash which had been paid out of the city’s general funds was $79,583.91, ($6,000 of which was for the architect’s fees).
Mayor Howard stated that in view of the above picture and particularly since so large an amount was drawn out of the general funds rather than time financing, it was necessary that the city refinance to create a general fund for operating expenses.
The mayor also referred in this conference to the financial position of the City Hospital. Of this he said that in contradiction to the general opinion that the hospital had been making a profit, monies had been paid over to the hospital’s general fund from the city’s general fund as follows: In 1945, $19,974.13; in 1946, $11,833.13; in 1947, $3,655.85; in 1948, $7,314.87; or a total of $42,777.98.
Published in Sylacauga Today August 29 Through September 12, 2007.