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Gargantuan effort to clean football field, stadium ahead of Crystal City High School’s season

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CRYSTAL CITY, Mo. – Just last month, it seemed like a lost cause. Crystal City High School’s Dr. J.J. Commerford Stadium was still under floodwaters from the overflowing Mississippi River.

Football may have been in the air but water covered the field from late April into July. It was more than 10 feet high at times.

“Really, honestly, as long as it was on there, I didn’t know if we’d even have a football field,” said Superintendent Dr. Steve Barnes.

Still, this river town has been fighting this mighty river its entire existence and there would be football.

“It’s insane. It’s insane how far it’s come,” said Michael Raftery, whose two sons play football.

Raftery is one of more than two dozen volunteers who helped transform the field.

It didn’t happen by magic. The work was exhausting. The people doing it got a little sick of this place but letting the Mississippi win this fight wasn’t an option; not during high school football season in Missouri.

The receding water left behind about four inches of mud.

“It was not good,” said middle school player Seth Senter.

Yet for the first time this season, players are the field again this week. The volunteers saw to it.

“Tons of people: community members, parents, all of the coaches,” Barnes said.

A sanitizing agent was applied and the field surface tested for contaminants.

“We power washed all of the bleachers. We power washed the track with the firehouse. Then we washed the field with firehouse twice,” Raftery said.

The district did not have to dip into its budget for the close to $6,000 restoration effort thanks to corporate help from Spire and Fred Weber.

There may be a football game here next week instead of next season.

“It’ll probably bring tears to my eyes to see these boys play a game,” Raftery said.

“It’s one thing to have to deal with the disaster but to see the community come together, it makes you feel awesome; especially when it’s all about the kids. That’s what we’re here for,” Dr. Barnes said.

“Oh, it’s looking great! (We’re) grateful for all of the people that came out and helped us get our field back,” Senter said.

It’s back and it’s beautiful.

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