A capacity crowd gathered at the new Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium Friday night to witness history as officials dedicated the stadium in memory of the late Chillicothe congressman and the playing field in honor of Chillicothe High School football coaching legend Bob Fairchild. The ceremony concluded with the Chillicothe Education Foundation transferring the property deed to the Chillicothe R-2 School District.

The ceremony preceded the Chillicothe High School Hornets' first football game at the new $4 million stadium.

Five years ago, this plot of land just north of the high school was little more than a vacant field. But, from this piece of ground emerged a vision to construct a state-of-the-art sports complex. Less than a year ago, construction began on the facility, and Friday night marked the beginning of a new era in Chillicothe High sports.

Ed Douglas, president of the Chillicothe Education Foundation, welcomed those in attendance and recapped the development process for making the sports complex a reality. He stated that the previous stadium, originally built and used by Chillicothe Business College, was 90 years old. He said the facility needed a million-dollar renovation, but had no interest from donors in making the improvements happen. In addition, the former stadium, which had been given to the school district in the early 1950s, was a significant distance from the present high school, and was land-locked, preventing expansion. Additionally, the former facility was limited in its track offering with just six lanes and limited parking availability was another issue.

Paid solely through private donations, the new complex sports an eight-lane track, a full soccer field, and artificial turf to allow greater opportunities of play after heavy rains. The facility also has a top-of-the-line lighting system providing twice as much illumination as at the previous field.

The funds to construct the complex came from 225 donors, Douglas said. He noted that, at this time, there remains a $300,000 shortfall, and that there is still opportunity for interested individuals and others to give and become a part of the project. Donors of $1,000 or more will be noted on a permanent marker to be affixed to a wall at the stadium entrance.

About half of the complex's funding came from local foundations. Although foundations normally don't contribute to public projects, this stadium project was "above and beyond that which the school could reasonably be expected to do for themselves," Douglas said. Foundations providing $1.7 million for the project were the Mervyn Jenkins Foundation, Lenore Lambert Foundation and Jerry Litton Family Memorial Foundation. Representatives of each foundation were asked to stand and be recognized during Friday's 40-minute ceremony.

Douglas introduced members of the stadium committee: Robert Cowherd, Mike Turner, Tom Ashbrook, Dave Rogers, Brent Turner, David Neal, Ed Turner, Phil Willard, Dan Nagel, Roger Barnes, Julie McCoy, Andrea Graves, and Kathy Gilliland.

"This is a great group of people," Douglas said. "They saw a need and filled it. They did a lot of work."

Douglas also acknowledged the Education Foundation, which provided land for the project and served as the entity for signing contracts and borrowing money.

Douglas introduced others involved in the project, including Mike Cole, Dave Copeland, McAnany Construction, J.J. Gates, Chillicothe State Bank, John Hutchison, Duane McCauslin, Jason Graves, Gary Willard, Wagner Chapman and Tim Marsh, the late Nancy Elliott, Brian Sherrow, and many others.

Douglas also expressed appreciation to the city of Chillicothe for being a unique town of which the sports complex is a part.

Douglas had members of the Jerry Litton Family Memorial Foundation step forward and be recognized. A short video of the late Congressman was played on the new scoreboard's screen.

Douglas introduced current Chillicothe Hornets football head coach Phil Willard, stating that "no one has put in the hours on this project like Phil by a magnitude of 10."

Willard provided dedicatory comments about Fairchild, his predecessor as coach and for whom he played in the 1960s and served as an assistant in the 1990s, before asking Chillicothe cheerleaders to unveil the colored turf interlaced into the field's west sideline, designating the playing surface as Bob Fairchild Field.

"It is with a great deal of admiration and respect that we name this field for a man who put in many hours at the old Litton Stadium, maintaining it, constructing buildings, and renovating the stadium in 1979," Willard said. "No one but Coach would know the hours he spent during the 1960s, '70s, '80s and '90s developing one of the best football programs in the state of Missouri."

Fairchild's coaching legacy includes an overall career record of 307 wins, 79 losses, and five ties. He is a 1950 Chillicothe High School graduate and began coaching Hornet football in 1963, continuing through the 1997 season. During his time at Chillicothe, Fairchild led the Hornets to 287 wins, and five state championships (1970, 1972, 1978, 1985, 1991). He recorded four perfect seasons (1965, 1969, 1970, 1978). He had 61 all-state players and 142 all-district players. Fairchild's successful coaching career led to him being inducted into the Missouri and National High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.

Willard asked family members of Fairchild to stand, as well as all former coaches and players of the retired coach.

"I feel I was a lucky man," Willard said. "I got to play for Coach Fairchild and also coach with him."

Fairchild then took a turn at the microphone, highlighting his first year in Chillicothe as head coach, and provided anecdotes about coaching the Hornets.

"I feel honored that they've got my name on the football field, naturally, but more importantly it's all the kids I've coached – seeing them again," he said of the evening's ceremony.

He extended words of appreciation for those who were involved in creating the new sports complex.

"It is a beautiful place," he said.

In his closing comments, Education Foundation President Douglas applauded all who were involved in the stadium project.

"This is something that I think we can all be proud of," Douglas said. "This is first class."

Douglas' final action at the podium was to present Dr. Roger Barnes, Chillicothe R-2 Superintendent of Schools, with a deed to the property.

Ed Turner, vice president of the Jerry Litton Family Memorial Foundation, said the late Charley and Mildred Litton, whose donation allowed the former stadium to be renovated in 1979 and extended its life for more than three decades, would be proud to have supported the new stadium and to have it continue to bear their son's name.

"There is absolutely no question about it," Turner said. "The foundation has been strongly supportive of the athletics programs here at CHS from the mid-1970s on and continues to do so and will continue to do so in the future."

"We're extremely proud of this facility," Turner said. "It's second to none. They've done a wonderful, wonderful job and we're so proud to be a part of it."