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Details of how crowds broke in Athletic Park roughly a century ago are sketchy.

There is some faint praise given by an University of Nebraska football coach about it being the finest field he had ever seen, hundreds of football games and track meets, baseball games and band performances.

But most of all was the feel, the comfort of the place the Orangemen and Lady O called “home.”

Beatrice Public Schools officials hope the crowds find the same comfort in the new House of Orange beginning Friday as the football team opens its 2012 campaign against Elkhorn South.

Activities director Neal Randel said Beatrice High School is expecting a “very big crowd” filling both the 1,900 seat home bleachers and the 500 seat visitor’s sections.

“I think people are really going to like it,” Randel said.

The gates at the stadium, metal gates with the stylized “O” will open at 5:30 p.m. Friday, 90 minutes before kickoff. Randel said no one will be allowed in the stadium before that time.

“We are planning to lock it up well in advance so folks won’t be reserving seats with blankets as they did downtown,” Randel said.

Tickets are the same price as before -- $5 for adults and $3 for students -- and will be sold at the new ticket booth, however, the school hopes fans will purchase a season pass at the high school office during regular business hours.

Randel said those who haven’t purchased a ticket ahead of time could experience a long wait in line.

Parking at the new stadium will also be a big change from downtown. The high school lot will be open with the exception of spots directly in front of the ticket booth and areas between the main high school building and the metal industrial tech classrooms.

Randel said those areas are blocked off for increased foot traffic and to give the visiting team’s bus, game officials and other stadium workers a place to park.

Once the lot fills up, fans can park on the grass areas directly north of the parking lot near Highway 136 and to the north of the stadium.

Cars blocking traffic could be towed, Randel warned.

Inside the stadium, Randel said fans will experience better views of the field from the north and south stands built to either side of the concession's window.

Directly below the concession stand will be high school student seating and band seating. The band will not perform at halftime, Randel said, as they are still working on a fall show.

To the south end of the lower stadium will be spaces reserved for middle school students.

Elementary students are expected to sit with their parents or guardians. Randel said no pickup games of football will be allowed inside the stadium.

The grass berms are available for seating. Lawn chairs and blankets are allowed on the berms around the stadium.

William of Orange will ride in the House of Orange along the south side of the stadium.

Rider Dave Bowhay and Goliath will enter the stadium from the southeast and be posted along the southwest part of the field.

Randel said maintenance workers are still trying to figure out a way to move the victory bell to the new stadium.

“We’re wanting to get it down in front of the crowd if we can, but the kind of equipment we would need to move that would not be good to drive across the track and turf,” Randel said.

One of the biggest changes from Athletic Park fans will notice, Randel said, is larger restrooms and more accommodating concession stands.

“The concession stands will be able to do a nice job of serving people quickly and the restrooms are very large and wide concourses, people are going to be able to go to the restrooms a lot easier than they could at Athletic Park,” Randel said.

Sunflower seeds or any kind of other shelled foods will not be allowed in the stadium, along with smoking or chewing tobacco, pets, bicycles or skateboards.

Randel encourages fans to be respectful of the new facility and help keep it clean by throwing away garbage in receptacles placed around the concourses.

BPS hopes the crowds come to break in the House of Orange but urges patience from fans.

“Obviously we hope we have tons of people there, but we also hope they will be patient,” he said. “It will be a learning experience for everyone and we hope everyone has a good time. I really think they are going to like it.”

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Reach Chris Dunker at cdunker@beatricedailysun.com

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