Alumni Stadium Gears Up for Home Opener

Football runs in the Reinhart family

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John Reinhart, left, and his son Jake face off at Alumni Stadium.

Jake Reinhart did his share of tearing up Alumni Stadium’s former turf during the past four years as a Guelph Gryphons linebacker. When No. 15 and the rest of the varsity football squad step onto the refurbished field for next Saturday’s home opener, everything will be brand new.

Gesturing to the freshly marked playing surface installed this year as part of the $4.8-million stadium renovations, he says, “It’s nice to have artificial turf for my last season.”

If Reinhart isn’t shedding any tears over the loss of the stadium’s former mud-prone turf, neither is his dad.

John Reinhart, U of G’s longtime grounds manager, is a turfgrass expert and plant-lover going back to his horticulture studies here. But this diehard Gryphons fan and football dad loves the springy new field, plastic and all.

“It’s so impressive. It’s one of those things you never thought would happen,” says John. “The old field couldn’t take the wear. Now this is a great use of real estate.”

The Gryphons will take the field Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. against the Waterloo Warriors. For the Homecoming game Sept. 22, Guelph will take on the University of Toronto’s Varsity Blues.

The home team will be looking to improve on last season’s 2-6 record. Jake Reinhart, named as a 2011 All-Canadian and defensive MVP, is one of about 10 veterans on this year’s squad.

“We’re definitely a younger team,” says Jake, who will complete his geography undergrad this semester.

He hasn’t missed a game – home or away – since his first outing as a Gryphon in 2008.

Neither have John and his wife, Ellen.

John never played organized football, but he’s a longtime fan of the game. Highlights for him include cheering on the Gryphons squad that won the 1984 Vanier Cup.

By then he’d worked for five years full-time with the University grounds department. A lifelong Guelph resident, he had started part-time on the campus while still attending Guelph C.V.I.) John earned a horticulture diploma in 1985.

For the past eight years, he and Ellen have nurtured a mini football dynasty.

Now 22, Jake started playing at age 14 with the Guelph Bears in the Guelph Minor Football Association. He quarterbacked the Bears to the 2006 district championship and also played pivot at G.C.V.I.

Both of his younger brothers have also played with the city and high school teams. Will, now 20, was a linebacker before starting college.

Job, 16, has played since age nine. “His mother says he’ll be the Gryphons’ quarterback,” says John. “We’ll be Guelph fans forever.”

Sunday afternoons find most of the family at home watching NFL Network. They’re big Pittsburgh Steelers fans. For the Canadian Football League, they favour Saskatchewan and Hamilton.

They missed this year’s Labour Day classic between the hometown Hamilton Tiger Cats and Toronto Argonauts. Referring to the Gryphons’ season opener that day against the McMaster Marauders – Guelph lost to the defending Vanier Cup champions – John says, “We were all in Hamilton at the ‘other’ game.”

While the Department of Athletics will maintain U of G’s new playing surface, grounds staffers will look after landscaping in and around the stadium.

John plans to bring his own dad for a look soon. Now 92, Bert Reinhart retired from U of G in 1985 after 28 years as an animal sciences professor.

Besides Gryphon home games, the stadium will be equipped to host major athletic and cultural events. Still to be completed are construction of a new track and installation of a new scoreboard.

Also built on campus this year were the new Gryphon Field House – with an indoor track and artificial turf – and a new soccer complex. Referring to the new athletic facilities on campus, John says, “If you’re a potential recruit, this is a major incentive. Everything is really nice.”