MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Change is coming to Mechanicsburg’s football stadium. Construction is scheduled to start at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Park in March.
For the most part, the stadium and locker rooms haven’t been touched in more than 70 years.
Planners say there will be a new field house, ticketing center and training room. The concession stand, public bathrooms and locker rooms will be renovated.
This week, the Mechanicsburg school board approved naming its new field house after coach and teacher Rich Lichtel.
“We played against each other in college,” said Gump May, who was friends with Lichtel. “We coached against each other. I coached at Hershey High and he coached at Mechanicsburg, and we had prostate cancer together.”
The list of lives touched by Lichtel is endless.
“Loved the kids,” said May. “The kids had fun. They loved him.”
“There’s a saying that the players would run through walls for their coach,” said John Weaver, who coached at multiple schools in the Midstate, including Mechanicsburg with Lichtel. “It was true for Rich.”
Lichtel passed away at age 60 in 2007, after being the district’s head football coach for 25 years.
“He was urging you and encouraging you to do the right thing without feeling overbearing,” said Jon Boles, a former football player of Lichtel’s and a member of the Wildcat Foundation.
“Richard would be happy with this,” said Reese Lichtel, Rich Lichtel’s oldest brother. “He was a mentor to a lot of students. He did more than coach football.”
“He taught world culture,” said Dylan Gallucci, a former football player and student of Lichtel’s and the vice president of the Rich Lichtel Memorial Fund. “It was a social studies class, and I remember going from being a freshman to be a sophomore. Everybody hoped to get Rich.”
The Wildcat Foundation and the Rich Lichtel Foundation are fundraising for the project.
Organizers have raised $1.6 million so far, but still have one million to go.
Either way, the Wildcat Foundation plans on breaking ground in March.
“We have financing in place if necessary but we would prefer to complete this project debt-free,” said Holly Laufer, the executive director of the Wildcat Foundation.
The Wildcat Foundation says this project isn’t just for football players and fans. It’s for the entire district.
“There are about 100 activities that occur here annually. Five of them are football,” said Laufer. “So band performs here, lacrosse…just a myriad of activities that benefit everyone in the community.”
It’s an exciting future with a special piece of history.
“Just the impact that he had in the years that he was here, it really can’t be measured,” said Scott Erney, a former football player of Lichtel.
“Even if Rich’s life came to an end, his spirit and the things he did for the community still carry on,” said Gallucci.
The Wildcat Foundation’s website has more information about how you can donate and get involved in the project.