Under the Stands, Stambaugh Stadium Is Its Own World

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – For many, Stambaugh Stadium is known as the Ice Castle, home to the Youngstown State University football team. But for Rick Love, it’s not just where the Penguins play. It’s a full-fledged office. 

“It’s a big, cement elephant up on a hill with many activities taking place in it seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.,” the associate athletic director says. 

As people go by the stadium every day, they may not know about what sits beneath the bleachers. 

“The main part people see are football games, be it high school or Youngstown State University,” Love says. “We have our ticket office here. We have all of our athletic administrative offices in this building. We have our athletic training room in here that handles 500 student-athletes.”

The stadium, built in 1982, is home to the YSU Reserve Officer Training Corps program, gymnasiums underneath the stands used by both varsity and intramural athletes and the Jermaine Hopkins Academic Center, which houses academic advisers who help student-athletes with their classes and tutoring weekly. 

YSU student-athletes have access to the Jermaine Hopkins Academic Center.

There are offices for the Penguin Club, athletics’ NCAA compliance department, sports information and marketing. Stambaugh Stadium also hosts classes for the sports science, exercise science, physical education and kinesiology programs at YSU.

YSU President Jim Tressel “always stresses that it’s a university facility, although it’s an athletic facility,” says Tim Stuart, assistant director of athletics. “It’s not just athletics. Campus rec, club sports, outside groups. Everybody uses this.” 

While the the stadium seems quiet and inactive during the summer, it remains busy year-round with some 100 full-time and part-time employees working inside.

“A lot of times, you’ll talk to people and they think in the summertime we don’t do anything. But the summertime is a busy time because we’re planning ahead for the football and basketball seasons,” says Trevor Parks, director of athletics and communications. “People don’t realize that there’s full-length basketball courts in here so our basketball programs can utilize that.” 

For the past two years, Stambaugh Stadium also has played host to the Y Live concert series. Award-winning country artist Blake Shelton will be this year’s headline act at the concert Sept. 21.

“A lot goes on here 365 days a year,” Parks says. “It’s not just a six-, seven-times-a-year operation with football games that a lot of people get to see. It’s seen a lot of changes through the years, but it’s held up well.” 

Whether it’s football, soccer or volleyball, the stadium is always busy, says athletic business manager Steve Pinciaro. With more fields, courts and parking lots added, it provides more opportunities for high school students to visit campus with their families. 

“They might come here, enjoy it and might want to come here for college when they get older,” Pinciaro says. “We have our softball field that we built and high school students practice there. We have our soccer field. Ursuline and Mooney play out here. So just to get those local people on to campus has been great.”

While the athletics department uses it sparingly, the Edward J. DeBartolo Stadium Club atop the stadium is used by outside groups and on-campus organizations. 

The DeBartolo Stadium Club is used by area organizations for meetings, conferences and dinners, as well as by on-campus groups.

Throughout the off season, summer camps use Stambaugh Stadium for youth activities and it hosts 300 events annually, including lunches, dinners, banquets, weddings and more.

The Stadium Club provides the athletics department with an opportunity to foster relationships with the Mahoning Valley business community. With businesses paying to use spaces like the Stadium Club, events that go on at the stadium are subsidized, Love says. 

“The Stadium Club was a gift from the DeBartolo family back in 1997,” he says. “We’ve had [Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber] mixers up there. We had a meet-the-coach with young YSU alumni. It’s a phenomenal multipurpose room.” 

The stadium features more than 30 loges that companies and individuals can rent for games. 

There is always a waiting list of people wanting to get upstairs to enjoy the games from that level, Love says. 

With so many suites used daily, with or without football, planning and coordinating events is a constant concern, he says.

“We have our scholarship loge holders. We have about 35 individual suites up there that are used for events here in the stadium,” Love says. “It kind of goes in cycles. Some days, there’s a whole bunch of activity going on and some days it’s quiet and nothing is going on.” 

With media suites having moved to the east grandstand, their former spaces on the bigger side of Stambaugh Stadium are being converted into loges.

For anyone who works in athletics, every day is different, says Stuart, the assistant athletics director. Students are a key part of keeping the stadium running. 

“There are times where our athletic director is flipping tables and moving chairs, and we all do that because we’re tight on time,” he continues. “We work well together. Athletics in general, we’re not 9 to 5 by any means.” 

During the football season, Parks coordinates all media relations with the football team and game-day press box operations. Love maintains everything on the field in game management. Stuart and Pinciaro oversee stadium operations and ensure everything is running smoothly inside and out.  

“We’ve been together for a long time, so we’ve got a lot of experience to draw from,” Parks says. “We know how each person has their role on gameday. If we get on each other’s nerves on gameday, it’s just the heat of the battle. It’s like seeing any sports team get on each other a little bit. It happens, but that’s because we want to put out a good product.”

The new Don Constantini Multimedia Center (See story page 54), to be completed later this year, will not only serve staff on game days with football radio booths, but will house a classroom for YSU’s sports broadcasting program. The media center was funded in part by a $1 million gift from Constantini, a YSU alum. 

“It’s really a welcome addition to the stadium and it will certainly help upgrade the facility,” Love says. “It’s a year of construction. I think we’re north of about $12 million in construction that the university is doing on campus this year.” 

Other projects within the stadium include the removal of 12 tennis courts behind the east stands for a new 300-space parking lot, providing much-needed room. 

“Behind Ursuline off of Elm, we’re building a 100-yard artificial turf field that we will share with Ursuline High School and YSU and our new women’s lacrosse team,” Love continues. “Soccer will be able to practice there. Intermurals and recreation will have access to it.”

Across Fifth Avenue behind the Covelli Sports Complex, YSU will break ground shortly on six indoor tennis courts that will be home to the men’s and women’s teams, as well as local high schools.

“To be able to get the tennis courts inside, especially in Ohio weather, will be really exciting,” Love says. 

Love has worked at the stadium for the past 22 years. 

“Everyday, you wake up and you come to a football stadium,” he says. “The really neat part for me coming to work here is you get to interact with our student athletes. You’re dealing with 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids.”

With locker rooms for soccer, baseball, softball, football and other sports in the stadium, Love is exposed to the energy the student-athletes bring daily. 

“The volleyball teams practice in the gym. The kids are going in and out of the training room, in and out of the weight room,” he says. “You get to see them, you get to interact with them. You see all the energy and excitement that they’re bringing getting ready for the season. As an administrator, that excites you that they’re working hard and certainly we want to do our best to give them the resources they need to succeed.”

As much as it may quiet down during the summer, the stadium’s atmosphere remains busy as summer camps use the gyms, he says. When students return to campus for training camps, the excitement grows. 

“Fall is exciting because we’ve got football going on, but even if our team is on the road during the week, the team is still here practicing,” Stuart says. “That’s an exciting time. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun.” 

It’s important for others to be aware of what goes on within the stadium because YSU’s mission is to reach out to the community and to get the public involved in the university. 

When outside groups are able to get on campus, the impact “is huge,” Stuart says. 

“You’re bringing recruitable students on campus,” he says. “I live in Cortland and a lot of people have never been to campus. They think about what it looked like 10 years or 20 years ago. We’ve invested a lot of money in our facilities and it’s important for us to get those people here.” 

Pictured: Sports science, exercise science, physical education and kinesiology students have classes at Stambaugh Stadium. 

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.