SALAMANCA — From 2009-2020, the words “Coach Whitcher” adorned the outside of the press box that overlooked the football field at Veterans Memorial Park.
That press box no longer exists due to a total renovation of the entire Vets Park into a multi-sport complex with updated field surfaces, lighting and scoreboards. But the new press box will once again recognize George Whitcher, one of the men most responsible for the greatness displayed in the heydey of Salamanca football.
At halftime of Friday’s home opener, the Salamanca City Central School District will host a rededication of the press box to Whitcher, a retired former longtime coach and teacher.
Bartoszek said the athletic department always planned on rededicating the press box, but with attendance limited during the team’s first season at the new Vets Park last spring, it waited until now. Former players are invited to cheer on the Warriors and view the rededication ceremony at halftime.
“It was dedicated years ago, and with the new complex being built, I don't want to say it got swept under the rug, but with all the stuff going on replacing the entire building, it was something we didn't get to in that spring season,” Bartoszek said. “It just came on so quick and all the COVID stuff, we didn't really have a chance to settle down and think outside the box about some of those other details. It just seems like it's going to be hopefully a normal season and we can start incorporating some of that stuff back into Vets Park and building that tradition.”
WHITCHER coached the Warriors’ varsity football team from 1974-1998 for a total record of 167-59-5. His Salamanca teams won sectional championships in 1982, ‘84, ‘86, ‘90, ‘93, ‘96 and ‘98. The last team Whitcher coached at SHS of which included Bartoszek, a talented tight end who went on to play at the University at Buffalo and a coaching career that has brought him to the sidelines at Salamanca for his third season leading the Warriors this fall.
“Coach Whitcher is one of the most successful coaches in Western New York and he is one the reasons that that place is special,” Bartoszek, now also the athletic director at SHS, said. “So I do know there's a lot of people who are excited about rededicating this, including myself, who was lucky enough to play for him. We've got a different building there so we're going to have to come up with new signage, but just by (doing) it early on in the year is going to provide something special just to make sure that we're always remembering those who made Salamanca Warrior football so special.”
The Warriors (1-0) play Southwestern in their first big league game of the season set to kick off at 7 p.m. The initial press box dedication was held in September 2009, coincidentally before another game against Southwestern.
Bartoszek expects a great atmosphere with many fans in attendance for a football game at the new field for the first time. He hopes his Warriors can give their supporters a good game to watch against the Trojans.
“Just to kick off the year, home opener, big test, Class C, the concessions will be rolling,” he said. “It’ll have the old smells and the old feel and we're going to have the pep band out there. We're just trying to make it an electric atmosphere. Football-wise, we’ve got to perform.”
(Salamanca Press sports editor Sam Wilson may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)