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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)
NORFOLK - Rick French pulled out a 1-pound wad of keys, fished the right one from the couple dozen on the ring and inserted it into the lock of the officials' locker room at Foreman Field.
Fun fact: some of the locks at the 82-year-old stadium, whose days have dwindled to a precious few, are so quirky and dated that they open by turning clockwise, the opposite of most.
French, Old Dominion's associate athletic director for operations, opened the door and stepped into the locker room, which had a lounge area in front and a large shower in the rear that has not been used for years.
Actually, it was used, but only as an area to store floor and ceiling tiles, wooden flooring, carpeting, grout, rolls of rubber flooring and other items left over from the construction of the Mitchum Basketball Performance Center and the expansion of the L.R. Hill Sports Complex across campus.
Fun fact: in addition to hosting college, professional and semi-professional football, track and field, lacrosse and field hockey over the decades, Foreman for the past several years has served as the attic of the ODU athletic department, with stuff tucked everywhere in the warren of nooks and crannies, closets and breezeways beneath the stands.
Now, everything must go.
French and his crew have until Monday evening to clear the place out. The final game will be played Saturday against Virginia Military Institute, and demolition of the campus and community landmark is expected to begin next week to clear the way for a $65 million reconstruction.
Some stuff already has gone. Three 40-foot containers of items formerly stored at Foreman sit in a lot on the west side of campus, near the Sailing Center.
The rest of it will be cleared by French, a graduate assistant and a crew of 10 student workers.
Regrettably, there aren't any leather helmets or much of anything in the way of historical relics left in the stadium, which opened on Oct. 3, 1936 and is, to be charitable, showing its age.
Rather, there are myriad things essential to the operation of one more game at the old ball yard, ranging from cheerleader pom-poms to first-down markers, TV monitors to training tables.
Much will be stored for a return to the new facility. For example, 71 visiting player lockers and chairs, coaching lockers and chairs, tables, radios, trash cans, etc. will be stashed until the new stadium is ready in August.
"These are relatively expensive if you buy them new," French said. "You want to keep them."
Like any operations manager, frugality is one of French's guiding principles. Resourcefulness is a requirement of the job. Re-purposing items, rather than throwing them out, is the goal whenever possible. So is keeping "attic stock" around for small repairs that arise.
Hardly any space has gone unused. The area under the north bleachers, which are not slated for tear-down in this reconstruction, houses giant cooling fans positioned on the sideline in warm weather as well as fixtures, faucets, speakers and other equipment.
Marching band equipment was stored in a room in the southwest corner of the stadium.
It's been a constant shuffle, moving stuff from one place to another to make room in grandma's attic.
"It's amazing all the little nooks you can shove stuff in," French said. "It's an interesting dance, so to speak."
Things will be considerably less strained at the reconstructed stadium, which will have a dedicated storage space that will make life easier, if possibly a bit less interesting, for French and his staff.
"It's a big enough space that we can utilize and function way better," he said.
The old space will have to suffice for one more game, before the tear-down begins.
Ed Miller, 757-446-2372, firstname.lastname@example.org
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