New lights linked to Celtics football success

Build it and they will come. That is what St. John Neumann football coach Steve Howey thinks of the new stadium lights being installed at the football and track stadium.

School officials and members of the football team participate in a ceremony at St. John Neumann's football field for the placing of the new stadium lights on Thursday in Golden Gate. The stadium has been without lights since the school opened in 1980 and their installation is part of the first phase of a $10 million renovation project.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS, Daily News

School officials and members of the football team participate in a ceremony at St. John Neumann's football field for the placing of the new stadium lights on Thursday in Golden Gate. The stadium has been without lights since the school opened in 1980 and their installation is part of the first phase of a $10 million renovation project.

Howey’s coaching staff and many of his players were at the dedication of the first set of lights being erected at the stadium.

By being able to play night games, Howey thinks it will interest a number of area schools that don’t take a shine to Friday afternoon games.

“It will help our players too because we won’t be playing in the heat of the day,” he says. “By having lights there will be more area teams willing to play us and attract larger crowds. It also will be an opportunity to showcase the football program that may attract student-athletes to St. John Neumann.”

Howey said there was a benefit to the spring night game the Celtics played at Estero in May.

“It would be nice to have a home-and-away situation with a school just 20 minutes away,” he says. “It might just be that athletes in Estero and Bonita Springs may look at us while considering Bishop Verot.”

Linebacker Chris Boran tosses around a football during a gathering at St. John Neumann’s football field for the placing of the new stadium lights on Thursday. The stadium has been without lights since the school opened in 1980. The installation is part of the first phase of a $10 million renovation project.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS, Daily News

Linebacker Chris Boran tosses around a football during a gathering at St. John Neumann’s football field for the placing of the new stadium lights on Thursday. The stadium has been without lights since the school opened in 1980. The installation is part of the first phase of a $10 million renovation project.

Besides Estero, Howey looks ahead to playing area public schools.

“We can’t compete with Immokalee or Naples (in football), but I think there is a natural in playing Lely,” he says. “(Lely coach) Steve Pricer is doing a great job with them and they would be a good challenge for us. I also like the job Dave Tanner is doing at Golden Gate. By playing area schools also will cut down on travel time and costs.” During the season the Celtics travel to Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

“We already have our academics in line and competing with larger schools in other sports,” he says. “A new weight room is also in Phase I that will help our athletes. Advancing the football program will help the school.”

Besides football it will allow the soccer, lacrosse and track teams to start later in the day, making it impossible for larger attendance at those events.

The first night game will be at 7 p.m., Sept. 14, against Archbishop Curley High School from Miami.

As funds in the campaign are raised other aspects of Phase I, with an estimated cost of $4.5 million, will be done. Also in Phase I are a new roof for the gymnasium, locker room expansion, fitness training center, safety improvements on the entire campus, new chapel and campus ministry center.

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