INDIANAPOLIS

The acreage immediately southeast of Perry Meridian High School was never a point of curiosity for Falcons football coach Matt Henninger.

It is now that a new 5,000-seat stadium sits there.

Henninger, who grew up in the Perry system and played linebacker for the Falcons before graduating in 2003, helps break in the facility Aug. 18 when his team hosts Greenwood in the season opener.

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It ends the inconvenient decades-long tradition of Perry Meridian playing home football games at Perry Stadium — located three miles away on the campus of Southport High School.

“When you grow up in a place, and I went here kindergarten through high school, it is what it is,” Henninger said. “Even as a player, we didn’t focus on why we didn’t have a stadium.

“But kids get excited about playing in the kind of facility that other schools have. As a coach, it just saves us a ton of time.”

Opened the summer of 1973, Perry Meridian enrolled students in grades 9 to 11 its first school year.

The first Falcons football squad took the field that summer. It was the first of 44 Perry Meridian teams that would either meet at or travel by bus to their so-called home away from home.

Convenient, it wasn’t.

“Driving everything across town and forgetting something always, it was a hassle,” Perry Meridian athletics director Doug Schornick said. “This is going to make my life a lot easier, and it’s going to lift the spirits of everyone.

“It’s no true feeling (of home field) when you have to load a bus with all your gear to have a home game. Here, you just walk out of the building and you’re home. It’s going to be really nice for the kids.”

This season the Falcons play regular-season home games against Greenwood, Terre Haute South, Franklin Central and Terre Haute North.

Perry Meridian joins the Mid-State Conference beginning with the 2018-19 school year, which means Franklin and Whiteland also will eventually play there.

Schornick is anticipating a near-capacity crowd for the Greenwood game if weather conditions are favorable. After all, the new stadium is more than where the football team practices and plays.

It’s a symbol of community pride.

“When you’re tailgating in (Southport’s) parking lot, it doesn’t feel like home, so I think this will alleviate that problem,” Schornick said. “The whole Falcon family is excited. It’s just wonderful for everybody.”

Falcon Facts

Name: Outdoor Instruction and Athletic Facilities

Cost: $9,800,000 (includes tennis courts and softball/baseball field drainage)

Press box: Approximately 500 square feet

Who paid: A combination of Capital Projects funds and Rainy Day funds

The Skillman factor: The Skillman family donated $1 million toward the stadium playing surface

Parking: Approximately 460 spaces

Did you know?: Perry Meridian defeated Brebeuf, 13-10, in its first game in 1973 with no senior players on its roster. The Falcons had seniors the following season and finished with a record of 8-2.

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.