Part I - From Race-Track Grandstand to Our Stadium
In 1873 the Union Fair Association of Chagrin Falls purchased 34 acres on the south side of East Washington Street to build a _-mile long racing track.
One year later, because of the new track, Chagrin Falls was selected as the site for the Cuyahoga County Fair. At that first fair, as an extra added attraction, a $10 purse was presented to the winner of a footrace once around the track. The victor, in 1894, was Tom Bright of Chagrin Falls with a time of 2:38.5. Today, 127 years later, Chagrin Falls’ athletes still run on a portion of that original track.
The first football game played by Chagrin Falls High School took place at Washington Park on November 6, 1897. Washington Park was located at the old Cuyahoga County fairgrounds (presently the high school, middle school, and “Rec Center” campus). The game was attended by 35 people with an admission charge of 10 cents. Chagrin’s opponent was the Geauga Seminary team from Chesterland, Ohio. Chagrin was easily defeated by a score of 10 to 0. An interesting footnote is that former U.S. President, James A. Garfield, attended the Geauga Seminary during his high school years after learning his ABC’s in the one-room schoolhouses of Chagrin Falls. As the fair grew to approximately 55 acres, improvements were continually made. The most significant was the construction of a permanent concrete grandstand in 1913. This is the very stadium Chagrin Falls High School uses today.
The fair was moved to Berea in 1924, leaving the Chagrin Falls fairground with a questionable future. In 1927 the Chagrin Falls Board of Education obtained permission from the Cuyahoga County Commissioners to use the fairgrounds for recreational and educational purposes. They obtained a 99-year lease with a fee of $1 per year. Finally, in 1955, the Board of Education bought the old Fairgrounds from the Cuyahoga County Commissioners for $5,000.
Part II-From Racetrack to Our Stadium
On September 27, 1929, Chagrin students filled the old grandstand for the dedication of the new football field and 1/4-mile cinder track. The score of the
football game that followed the dedication ceremony: Willoughby H.S. 45-Chagrin Falls H.S.-0.
In 1937 a $65,000 WPA grant was approved by the federal government for completing renovation work at the old fairgrounds. Work wasn’t completed during the summer of 1937 because of “lack of funds.” Later, in cooperation with the county commissioners, the school board and the federal government, the WPA finished the project. A “bathhouse” was installed with showers under the grandstand. Wells were dug, a few electric lights were installed plus a pump foroperating the swimming pool was added. The “bathhouse” was used by the football team and their opponents. Before the addition of the showers under the grandstand, teams dressed at the old “schoolhouse” in the village and walked to the football field for the games. Once the games were over, they walked back to the “schoolhouse” to take their showers.
The first major improvements came in 1944, when Carlyle S. Harris, Class of 1914, headed the Chamber of Commerce fundraising committee to light the stadium. Under his leadership, funds were raised and lights were erected one year later. Also born at that time was the Chagrin Falls Booster Club, under the leadership of George Camp, its first president.
The first night football game at the stadium was October 18, 1945. Chagrin Falls beat Chardon 13-6.
Part III (Final) – From Racetrack to Our Stadium
For many years the stadium was considered the most charming facility in northeastern Ohio. Nothing was comparable. The first college football game ever played in the Chagrin Valley was played under the “new modern lighting system” at the old stadium on September 28, 1946. The night game featured Kent State University vs. Hiram College. A crowd of “5,000 or more” saw Kent beat Hiram 40 to 0. It was believed to be the first college football game ever played in a non-college town in Ohio. Former Cleveland Browns’ head coach Bill Belichick’s father, Steve Belichick, was the head coach at Hiram College.
The original southside bleachers were provided by the Chamber of Commerce in 1946, and the Chagrin Falls Booster Club provided funds to build the press box in 1965. Carlyle S. Harris, Class of 1914, contributed toward the final completion of this project.
The stadium was dedicated to C.S. Harris in 1967 after his donation of new southside bleachers, perimeter fencing, and mercury light fixtures for the 1944 lighting system.
Renovations were made to the old racehorse grandstand in 1984. A new all-weather track was also installed at the athletic field. In 1989 continued renovation took place at the stadium. Track repairs, re-surfacing and stripping were completed in 1991. In 1997 the Chagrin Falls Booster Club, along with several interested parents and friends of the high school, renovated the space beneath the old grandstand to reestablish the varsity football locker rooms under the stadium. New lights were erected in the summer of 2001.
The old grandstand has aged but continues to hold 89 years of memories.