Before the pandemic struck, the plan for the “topping off” ceremony for the new Abessinio Stadium was to have the entire Salesianum senior class in attendance, marking a milestone event for the all-boys school.
Instead, over the last two weeks, the 250 members of the class of 2020 hand wrote their signatures on the ceremonial metal beam, which today was hoisted by large cranes and placed atop the frame of the new stadium.
The beam is painted a bright white with “Salesianum” and “Abessinio Stadium” across the front in the school’s signature blue and gold colors.
Each student was given the opportunity to tender their autograph when they returned to campus at their assigned times to clean out their lockers for the last time — one last permanent reminder of their time at the school and their contributions to the school’s history.
And because news spread that the beam would be awaiting its final placement in the parking lot for the last few weeks, other students and alum drove by and penned their names as a symbolic way to take part in the construction.
“Murphy steel, which is owned by a couple of our grads who are brothers, offered to bring it in and had painted it up and had the idea of maybe getting the seniors to sign it. The timing was perfect because we were able to announce it to all of our senior athletes at the sports banquet,” said Brendan Kennealey, president of the school.
Traditions are important to any school. But for generations of families who have sent their sons to Salesianum, the chance to step outside of quarantine and sign the beam was a special one.
“What ended up happening was that it just wasn’t a special moment for our seniors. But what we saw were generations of Salesianum alumni, taking part. We have many kids in our senior class whose fathers, grandfathers – one’s a fourth-generation – and their families who signed it. So that became a really nice bond for our seniors, to be part of something that sort of goes back generations and will last generations,” said Kennealey.
Builders from Whiting-Turner Construction, who gave a tour to the small crowd, said that despite 40 days of rain this winter, construction is still on track for completion near the end of September or “early October.” Abessinio Stadium is scheduled to open September 25th with a football game against Appoqinimink.
Some of the notable facets of the new stadium:
- The track is going from six to eight lanes, which can accommodate state meets
- State-of-the art video scoreboard will allow for video replays and highlights and provide other functionality for the site – only UD and Delaware State have similar video boards
- New lighting and visitors’ seating for 1000 spectators have been installed
- Grandstand will hold over 3,000 people, and there will be plenty of standing room between the grandstand and the track and field, bringing total stadium capacity close to 6,000
- Facility has a suite for 60-70 people with premium outdoor seating “very much like a suite you see at a professional stadium,”* a press box, State Parks office, and a home locker room
- Turf will be be installed in mid-June
- A separate concourse building will house the new concession stand as well as athletic offices, a special ATI physical therapy clinic, and the visitor locker room
Peter Abessinio (Sallies ’90) brought his two young sons Rocco and August to the topping off ceremony today and says he is proud that his family is able to help Salesianum carry on its tradition of serving generations of athletes and the broader community.
“It’s exciting to see because my father (Rocco) was a varsity football player, and he credits a lot of his success in life to lessons he learned playing football. So it’ll be a great legacy for the family,” said Abessinio. “It’s going be a tremendous asset for the community, and stadium amenities are going to be first-class. That’ll be exciting for everybody to utilize.”
Kennealey said the school’s investment in the iconic property and longtime home of Baynard Stadium was important for both the school and the broader community.
“Salesianum has been a part of this city for over 115 years. And we have tried to be a good citizen in the city and try to take leadership opportunities within this community when we could. And we saw this is far bigger than athletics. It’s also about trying to help this city and this community rebuild after some tough times,” he said.
*The suite will be used by the school for events both during games and by itself. The school will rent the suite for an additional fee as part of the stadium rental for games and other events. When the suite is not in use the seats will be open to anyone.