A donation of three-quarters of a million dollars from a local company will allow Bellefontaine High School to have a cutting-edge athletic stadium.
AcuSport, which has been producing outdoor and shooting sports products in Bellefontaine since 1965, gave $750,000 to the Bellefontaine athletic boosters during Monday’s board of education meeting.
The large donation will be used to help fund a project to upgrade the BHS sports stadium.
“The stadium renovation project provides a great opportunity to help our local community in a significant way,” said AcuSport CEO Bill Fraim. “Our employee base draws from the Bellefontaine and surrounding community. As such, we have many BHS graduates and/or their children that will benefit from a new and improved athletic facility for years to come. Taking a leadership role as the major donor is indicative of a caring and supportive culture.”
Bellefontaine City Schools Superintendent Beth Harman, left, presents information about improvements to the school’s athletic complex during the Monday evening board of education meeting, and thanks AcuSport CEO Bill Fraim, seated second from right, and President Jim Broering. (EXAMINER PHOTO | MANDY LOEHR)
According to Bellefontaine superintendent Beth Harman, the final price tag will cost around $1.5 million. All of the money raised for the project will be from private donations. Harman said that about $1.2 million has been collected. The school’s booster club has launched a campaign to raise the additional $200,000 needed to make the desired improvements.
“There are no words to express the appreciation that the district has for a donation of this size,” said Harman of AcuSport’s gift to the district. “I know that AcuSport strives to support the community, and this will positively affect so many, not just our athletes, but our musicians, too.”
The project includes replacing the natural grass playing surface with field turf. Bellefontaine will become the first Central Buckeye Conference school to have an artificial field. It will enable BHS to host playoff football games in the fall. The Ohio High School Athletic Association now requires host schools to have artificial turf.
Other improvements include the purchase of a scoreboard with a built-in sound system and video capabilities, and the construction of a new multipurpose building that will house bathrooms and a concession stand. The building will also serve as a locker room for the football team and a wrestling room during the winter. Spring athletes also will be able to use the building to dress for practices and games.
The track around the field will also be redone.
Work will begin in the spring and continue into the summer. The project is scheduled to be completed in time for Bellefontaine’s home football game against Wapakoneta in Week 1 of the 2014 season.
The improvements will alleviate the wear and tear on the field, as well as provide space for sports that need it. The high school’s football and soccer teams, as well as the band, use the field during the fall. The middle school football teams also now play their games at the high school after their former field was eliminated to make room for a parking lot at the current intermediate building.
In addition to the increasing volume of activities on the field, school officials have also been concerned about the deterioration of the stadium’s bathroom facilities and the track surface.
“This project will address all of those issues, and make our field a prospective venue for playoff games,” said Harman. “That would, in turn, be a financial boon to our Boosters Club and the community as a whole.”
Paul Wammes started the business in 1965. From humble beginnings in the family’s residence, the company grew over time. During the 1970s, the company expanded operations outside Ohio to help serve firearm retailers throughout the midwest.
In 1982, the Wammes family sold the corporation to L.M. Berry & Company. Regarded as the “founder of the Yellow Pages,” Loren Berry and his group invested in a corporate headquarters and distribution center in Bellefontaine.
Fraim, a grandson of Berry, came to Bellefontaine in 1982 to help run the company. He has since become the CEO.
AcuSport began taking a regional approach during the 1990s. The company’s first regional location outside of Ohio was in Lionville, Pa. That site was followed by offices in Sacramento, Calif., and Atlanta.
In 1996, AcuSport purchased Go Sportsmen’s Supply to better serve retailers in the northwestern U.S. That acquisition resulted in regional offices in Billings, Mont., and St. Cloud, Minn. A sales office was also added in Arlington, Texas, in the early 2000s.
To help better serve its retailers in the western U.S., AcuSport opened a second distribution center in 2007 in Salt Lake City.
Early this year, AcuSport announced a $12-million expansion project for its facility here. The expansion includes a 100,000-square-foot warehouse addition. The new warehouse will be completely functional by this summer.
Part of the motivation for the donation to Bellefontaine’s stadium project was to generate more local exposure and awareness for the corporation.
“Definitely having the athletic facilities named AcuSport Stadium will greatly increase our brand awareness throughout the school community as well as Bellefontaine where our headquarters is based,” said Fraim. “Higher visibility will provide a wonderful platform from which to tell our story.
“AcuSport has always been highly engaged in a variety of worthwhile causes throughout Bellefontaine. This is one more significant and lasting project that will help recognize AcuSport ... a company employing good, hard-working citizens.”
Remembering H.A. Dodd
Since 1971, Bellefontaine’s football stadium has been known as “Dodd Stadium.” It was officially dedicated in the memory of the late H.A. Dodd on Sept. 1, 1971.
Dodd did a little bit of everything in his 40-plus years at Bellefontaine. He had a record of 254-138 in 25 years as the Chieftains’ basketball coach, winning six Western Buckeye League titles.
He was the head football coach at BHS for 21 years, compiling a record of 108-63-18.
Also during his long tenure here, he coached the track team at the high school, supervised physical education for Bellefontaine schools, was an athletic director, teacher, principal and assistant principal in the district.
Former Examiner sports editor Jerry Turner wrote the following about Dodd in the dedication night program: “Seldom is a man a legend in his own lifetime, but without too much conjecture on anyone’s part, as far as Bellefontaine sports enthusiasts are concerned, that expression fits squarely on the broad shoulders of Harold A. (H.A.) Dodd, better known as “Coach” to thousands who knew or played under his expert tutelage, since back there in 1928. That was the year Dodd first set foot in the halls of Bellefontaine High School.”
As Bellefontaine’s sports complex enters a new era with the renovation project that was announced Monday, administrators do not want to let Dodd’s memory die. They plan to recognize him in the new stadium with a permanent display highlighting his contributions to Bellefontaine schools.
“Coach Dodd was an important part of our community, and he meant so much to the people of my generation and my parents’ generation,” said Harman. “He was a coach of all sports and a role model to many. We want to continue to honor the legacy of Coach Dodd, while we build a home for our future Chieftains.”
See related story: Stadium improvements offer wide array of benefits to BHS sports