PIAA football, soccer championships moving from Hershey to Cumberland Valley

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Wednesday, February 23, 2022 | 6:44 PM


Say goodbye to flying Hershey’s Kisses and giant chocolate bars. Pennsylvania high school athletes will have to find a new way to celebrate trips to the state championships.

The PIAA board voted Wednesday to move the football and soccer championships to Cumberland Valley’s Chapman Field for at least the next four seasons. The high school is in Mechanicsburg near the PIAA office, about 35 miles west of Hershey.

The state football and soccer championships were played exclusively in Hershey since 1998. Hersheypark Stadium was an option again to host the football finals this fall, along with Penn State’s Beaver Stadium and Altoona’s Mansion Park Stadium, but the PIAA chose Cumberland Valley’s bid instead.

Chapman Field has a capacity of more than 8,000.

“There was quite a host of things there that were very attractive,” PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said, “as well as their involvement with the (Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau) in making a very nice financial package.”

Lombardi dismissed concerns that moving the championships to a high school venue will diminish the event’s luster.

“We’ve heard that now and then maybe from the general public, but not the people involved,” said Lombardi, pointing to the experience girls volleyball teams had in November when Cumberland Valley hosted those state finals.

He said the state championship experience involves more than the size of the facilities.

“You’re treated like a guest when you get there,” Lombardi said of Cumberland Valley. “That’s the experience that we want. … It’s easy to say the biggest and the baddest are supposedly the best, but we have found that not to be always true, because sometimes you’re treated like a second-class citizen.”

The football finals were played from 1992-97 at Altoona’s Mansion Park Stadium. Prior to 1992, the games were spread across multiple sites each year. Cupples Stadium on Pittsburgh’s South Side hosted a state final in 1991.

Cumberland Valley ranks among the state’s larger school districts with more than 9,000 students, according to state data. The school’s football team competes in the largest classification, 6A. Lombardi said Cumberland Valley has plans to make a number of improvements to its facilities, including artificial turf and press box upgrades.

“The (proposals to host) that were submitted by that facility were very, very competitive,” Lombardi said, “especially with some of the changes they will be making. … They also have an indoor surface that can be used, a training room, a weight room, a media center, two artificial surfaces that can be used for walk-through, as well as individual players locker rooms that could suit each player on each team.”

One common complaint about Hersheypark Stadium was the small, outdated locker rooms that couldn’t hold an entire big-school team.

Lombardi said the PIAA took a look at Penn State’s bid to host in conjunction with the Happy Valley Visitors Bureau, but there was concern about playing six games on grass at Beaver Stadium in a short time period.

Cost also was a factor.

“With the number of people that we have been drawing in the last five years, I’m not sure we could have paid the bill,” Lombardi said.

Cumberland Valley also will serve as host for the PIAA field hockey championships and will remain host for the state volleyball finals.

The PIAA will continue to hold the team and singles and doubles tennis tournaments at Hershey Racquet Club, and the PIAA cross country championships will stay at the Parkview Course in Hershey.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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