By CLAUDE SCILLEY
Stu Lang was excited Saturday to see the progress that’s been made on a project he was instrumental in creating.
“It’s farther along than I thought,” he said. “It’s great.”
Lang, the former Golden Gaels football and hockey player, without whose $10 million gift to his alma mater reconstruction of Richardson Stadium would not have begun, was speaking after the ground breaking ceremony for the new facility.
On a gray but unseasonably warm afternoon, the background for the dignitaries who spoke can no longer be described as the old stadium. But for the shell that housed the dressing rooms, it’s all gone; its last vestige, the scoreboard, having come down Friday morning. What’s there now is truly the site of a new stadium rising, with most of the pilings in place for the new grandstands, and almost all of the gravel ready for the new field to be installed in the spring.
So impressive has been the progress, Lang spoke Saturday about possibly getting an early start on what has been described as Phase 2 of the project, the pavilion at the north end that ultimately will house the dressing rooms, training and athletic therapy facilities.
“What the engineers say is it would be nice to start while everything is still here,” Lang said.
“That’s something we’re going to talk through.”
Ever the competitor, though, Lang, who recently resigned as coach of the Guelph Gryphons, talked about his involvement in a similar project at the university’s stadium there.
“Sometimes I have divided loyalties,” he said. “I want the Guelph one to be built first. I kid (Queen’s coach) Pat Sheahan about that.”
With construction of the stadium itself unable to begin before the end of the football season in mid-October, many were doubtful Richardson III would be ready for the intercollegiate season of 2016, as planned.
They’re not so skeptical anymore.
John Garrah, site supervisor and project manager for M. Sullivan and Son, the general contractor, said he hopes to have the deep foundation work finished before the crew takes a two-week break, starting Dec. 24.
“By the end of next week, the west foundation line will be complete and on Tuesday morning we’re going to be starting the upper east foundation,” he said. When work resumes in January, the retaining wall on the east side will be completed, the elevator shaft on the west side will be built, and by mid-January, the structural steel work for the grandstands will commence, work that will take about six weeks to finish.
“Most of our activity will be hidden inside the west building in the wintertime,” Garrah said, “You’re going to see a little bit of concrete work and lots of structural steel activity.”
The geological survey revealed there is no solid rock—many years ago the site was used as a quarry by the penitentiary—and as a result, the caissons, the tops of which are visible, are sunk deep, some as far as nine metres at the southwest corner; none less than four metres deep.
To prepare the bed for the artificial turf field, about 7,000 cubic metres of topsoil has been hauled away and replaced with aggregate, with about another 2,000 cubic metres still to be removed.
The project is on schedule—“you’re never ahead of schedule,” Garrah said—largely for a couple of reasons: favourable weather and none of what the project manager calls bumps in the road.
“It’s been clear of bumps to date, but there’s always one somewhere,” he cautioned, careful not to rile the gods who control such fate. “We wouldn’t be this far if Mother Nature wasn’t on our side.
“It’s coming along nicely.”
Lang, one of the few players who played in both the original Richardson Stadium on campus, and the most recent Richardson, built as a temporary facility in 1970, said one of the things he finds most exciting about the new stadium is its bowl-type configuration, with seats at the south end, as well as both sides.
“This will be unique, certainly in the OUA and maybe in the CIS,” he said. “Playing in an extra large stadium is not exciting. This is perfect; the right size.
“I’m really excited with all the thought that went into it.”
Days after his Gryphons won the Yates Cup as Ontario University Athletics champions, Lang resigned from the coaching job. Saturday, he said he was eager to undertake new challenges.
“When I threw my hat in the ring (to coach), I told Tom Kendall, the athletics director at the time, that I’d only be there four or five years, and this was my sixth year,” Lang said. “I never planned to be a life-long coach. I thought, with my business background and my football background, I could do something special at Guelph if they allowed me some freedom.
“Looking back on it, there are some things that we could have done better, things we didn’t do that we maybe should have done, but we grew the program. It’s now one of the dominant teams in the OUA, so I can be excited from that standpoint.”
Besides keeping a close eye on the building projects at Guelph and Queen’s, Lang said he’s going to become more involved in the Lang Scholars program at his high school alma mater, Upper Canada College in Toronto.
“The UCC people came to me with a concept of the athletic version of the Rhodes Scholarship,” he said, “so we set up a large fund there for what are called Lang Scholars. They’re into their third year and one of the things I’ve not done a good job of is getting to know the scholars on a personal basis.
“That’s what I’m looking forward to: spending time with the Lang Scholars.”
Among those also present for the ceremony were Paul and Vicki Hand, co-chairs of the campaign cabinet for the field and stadium revitalization committee, and varsity athletes Curtis Carmichael from the football Gaels and Micah Vermeer of the women’s soccer team.
To make the occasion authentic, the ground into which they dipped the ceremonial spades was dirt actually taken from the area near the 55-yard line of the field where four conference finals—including the game many people believe was the best Canadian intercollegiate football game of all-time, the 2009 Yates Cup—two victorious national semifinals and more than 30 years of high school football championship games were contested.
As many an opposing coach, Lang came to detest that ground, the last remaining natural grass varsity field in Canada. Before he engaged in the traditional breaking of the sod Saturday, Lang took one parting shot at it.
“I tell you, our players felt like they were running in sand every time they came here,” he said. “It was terrible. I know Pat’s a little upset about losing it, because it is an advantage. He said it was as much as 10 points, but to be fair, if you want to become a centre for the community, you pretty much have to go to artificial turf. It is what it is.”