The 107th annual Portland-Deering Thanksgiving Day football game will be back at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

If and when it is played is now the question.

The game was supposed to be played at Deering’s Memorial Field this year. But city and school officials determined Monday that trying to remove the five inches of snow – with more likely on the way – could damage the new artificial surface, installed this fall at a cost of $722,000, including some site improvements.

The decision was made Monday afternoon to move the game to Fitzpatrick Stadium, said Deering Athletic Director Melanie Craig.

But forecasts for up to 6 inches of snow Tuesday and frigid conditions Thanksgiving morning put the timing of the event in doubt.

There are three options, according to Portland Athletic Director Rob O’Leary: move the game to 4 p.m. Wednesday; stick to the 10:30 a.m. Thursday start; or cancel for this season.

“Not playing is the last thing we want to do,” said O’Leary, “but the National Weather Service is putting out it’s going to be the coldest Thanksgiving ever.”

The two athletic directors, school administrators and possibly city officials are scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday and make a decision, O’Leary said.

The game, normally played at Fitzpatrick, had been moved to Deering in an effort to increase excitement and interest in an event that’s been an exhibition since 1967.

Attendance has dipped markedly in recent years. As recently as 2003 the game drew a reported 6,000 fans, but just 500 came in 2015 and 1,000 in 2016, prompting discussion about whether it still has value.

Fitzpatrick’s field, stands and walkways were cleared of snow to accommodate Saturday’s high school state championship games.

The City of Portland is responsible for field maintenance. Craig said clearing the field comes with “a significant price tag.”

“It’s a very fluid situation,” said Portland Coach Jim Hartman.

He and Deering Coach Rob Susi were standing on the middle of Fitzpatrick’s turf a little after 5 p.m. Monday. Portland had just finished its practice.

Deering was starting its practice, displaced since it couldn’t play on its field.

Both coaches were uncertain what would happen with the game. Hartman said he had been told that playing Thursday is unlikely unless the forecast for windy 20-degree weather improves.

“But if we do this Wednesday afternoon there’s 50 people in the stands,” Hartman said. “We’re doing this for the fans; for the tradition and the fans, and if they’re not here …”

Susi said canceling the game on such a late date also affects the players. Deering had about 22 players show up Monday. The Rams haven’t played since Oct. 26, when they lost in the Class A South quarterfinals.

“It’s a bigger concern for Coach Hartman’s team because he has a big group of seniors. I only have two seniors that have been showing up for practice,” Susi said.

The game was canceled in 1920 because of bad weather. Craig said local legend has it that the 1971 game would have been called off, but when Portland High officials tried to call Deering, the phone lines were down. Both teams showed up and the game was played.

“As of right now the game is on, it’s slated for Fitzy, and we’re keeping an eye on the weather so we can make the best decision,” Craig said.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig


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