PIAA football, soccer championships moving from Hershey to Cumberland Valley

CHRIS HARLAN
The (Greensburg) Tribune Review (TNS)
The Central York football team runs onto the field for 2020 PIAA Class 6-A football title game. The PIAA has decided to move the state football finals to Cumberland Valley.

Say goodbye to flying Hershey's Kisses and giant chocolate bars.

Pennsylvania high school football and soccer 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, about 25 miles west of Hershey.

The state football championships were played in Hersey every year since 1998. Hersheypark Stadium was an option to host the finals again 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 taking 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 last fall when Cumberland Valley hosted the state championships.

Lombardi 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. When people walked out of there (after state volleyball finals), they say, you know what? It was clean. It was nice. They accepted us. It was warm. It was everything that we wanted. 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 state football finals were played in Altoona from 1992-97, before moving to Hershey in 1998. Prior to 1992, the games were split each season among multiple venues. In 1988, the first year of the state playoffs, Hersheypark Stadium, Penn State, Altoona's Mansion Park and Shippensburg all hosted one championship game.

Cupples Stadium on Pittsburgh's South Side hosted a state final in 1991, but this fall will be the first time a high school venue was chosen as the championship site for all of the games.

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, 6-A. Lombardi said Cumberland Valley was making a number of improvements to its facilities, including artificial turf.

"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, not only adding a new field and changing the press box. 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 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.

Cumberland Valley also will serve as host for the PIAA field hockey championships and will continue to host 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 remain at the Parkview Course in Hershey.