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Dave Roepke, Published August 25 2010

Secret $2 million Shanley High gift adds seats to Sid Cichy Stadium

On the same day Fargo Shanley High School kicked off its second season of football on a home turf it lacked for 75 years, boosters got a bit of encouraging news.

Within a matter of weeks, they should be able to leave their lawn chairs at home.

Thanks to an anonymous $2 million gift to the Fargo Catholic Schools Network, the second stage of Sid Cichy Stadium is kicking off with hopes of being finished by the Deacons’ homecoming football game on Oct. 1.

“It’s kind of like Christmas all over again,” said Randy Nelson, the school’s activities director.

The $475,000 project adds the finishing touches to the stadium: fencing and entry gates, a press box, walking paths and permanent seats for 1,500, said Development Director Todd Mickelson.

“It’s exciting, absolutely,” said Gail Ringey, a seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher at Sullivan Junior High School. Ringey said it will be wonderful to finally be able to watch the games in a stadium of Shanley’s own.

“We’ll probably all have a place to sit then. That will be good,” Ray Simon said at Tuesday night’s game. Simon was with his wife and two sons to cheer on his grandson, Peter Simon, a freshman who will dress varsity this year.

Shanley graduate Phil Simon tries to attend as many games as possible. He said he was excited to hear the news.

“It’s what we’ve been waiting for,” Simon said.

Last year, bleachers on loan from Oak Grove High School and the Fargo Park District provided seating for a few hundred. That left hundreds more fans standing or sitting in chairs they brought, Mickelson said.

It was an inconvenience, but not nearly as much as the seven decades prior to that when Shanley had no home. In 2008, the Deacons played home football games at five locations.

“You’ve got to remember, we’ve been nomads for 75 years,” Mickelson said.

Construction is expected to be done, barring weather problems or other delays, for the Oct. 1 homecoming game against Valley City.

Not including the football opener Tuesday night with Davies High School, there are six varsity games at the stadium before Oct. 1 – five of them boy’s soccer.

Nelson said construction will be planned around the game schedule, but it may force some adaptations.

“We feel there’s a good window in there,” he said.

While the donor’s name wasn’t released, the apparent alum dedicated the gift to Sacred Heart Academy and Shanley High School as well as “the teachers and coaches like Sid Cichy who dedicated their lives to the development of young men and women,” according to a news release.

In 30 seasons at the helm of Shanley’s football teams, Cichy’s squads won 16 state championships.

Half of the $2 million will go to Legends and Legacies, the activities-focused fundraising campaign the Fargo Catholic Schools began in 2006. The other half will go toward academic and faith programming and efforts to keep tuition costs affordable, Mickelson said.

The anonymous donation is pledged to be given over a five-year span and leaves the $7 million Legends and Legacies drive just $1 million short of its goal.

Economic struggles have made fundraising a stiffer challenge, but Mickelson believes the last $1 million can be raised in a year.

Once the $7 million mark is hit, the facility housing Shanley High School and Sullivan Middle School will be expanded to create rooms for music, drama and speech programs, as well as new locker space for athletic teams, he said.

The expansion would add 11,000 square feet and refurbish another 5,000 square feet, Mickelson said.

Forum reporter Wendy Reuer contributed to this report

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535