The 5,000-seat stadium opened in 1922 and is located in Brandywine State Park. Through the years it has seen some of the biggest and best high school football games in Delaware history, and regularly hosts several large track and field invitationals.
Just this past weekend, undefeated Salesianum, one of the schools that calls Baynard Stadium home, hosted undefeated Middletown. Although there weren’t tens of thousands of people in attendance like you might see at a Friday night game in Texas, the bleachers at this game of the week at the Wilmington landmark were nearly filled to capacity to watch the Sals put a stamp on their No. 1 ranking with a convincing 42-6 win over the Cavs.
Less than 15 hours later, St. Mark’s easily handled Glasgow, and then on Saturday evening a third set of fans came through the turnstiles to witness Howard’s loss to Hodgson in a Division II rivalry game. So in a 24-hour span, three big high school games were contested on the Bermuda grass at Baynard.
The five schools that call Baynard Stadium home are Salesianum, which is the closest in proximity and sits just a block from the stadium, St. Elizabeth, Howard, Delaware Military Academy and St. Mark’s. Of the five, St. Elizabeth and Howard are landlocked in the middle of the city, so players will most likely always call Baynard home.
"We have no space for our own facility," said Joe Hemphil, athletic director and head coach at St. Elizabeth. "We have traditionally played at Baynard for the past 40 years, so it is like playing on our own field. Our kids are very familiar with the facility, so it is really not a disadvantage for us."
The only undeveloped land within walking distance of Delaware Military Academy is a small county park, so barring a move of its campus, most likely the Sea Hawks will continue to make the roughly 15-mile commute to their home games.
St. Mark’s, whose campus is approximately 20 miles and the farthest of the five from Baynard, has the most unique situation. Despite playing its home games at Baynard since 1970, the school’s administration decided to build its own stadium on the sprawling St. Mark’s campus in 2000. The Spartans now play two of their home games on campus at the 1,800-seat St. Mark’s Stadium and the remaining four at Baynard.
"Our administration thought it would be nice to play one or two games at our home field so we could bring the alumni back to see the school and the additions we have made," said Tom Rosa, who has served as the school’s athletic director for 30 years. "We now play our homecoming game during the day at St. Mark’s so all the festivities can be held right on our campus."
Another attractive feature of Baynard is an abundance of parking and easy access from several major roads. The stadium can be seen from Interstate I-95 and is accessible from every point on a compass, compared to a single road in and out of the St. Mark’s campus.
"For our big games against Newark, Sallies and William Penn, we could never park all the cars at our campus stadium, and the traffic before and after games would just be too much," Rosa says. "For that reason we also play our biggest home soccer game of the year against Sallies at Baynard."
According to St. Mark’s coach John Wilson, another reason the Spartans enjoy playing at Baynard is the opportunity to play under the lights, something it can not currently do at St. Mark’s Stadium.
"One of the main reasons we still play at Baynard is to give the kids an opportunity to play under the lights," says the fifth-year coach. "Every player dreams about playing Friday night under the lights and we want our kids to have that opportunity too."
So while one school is as close to Baynard as it could get even if it built its own home stadium, and three others are landlocked into always commuting to Wilmington, St. Mark’s may be the only school of the five capable of someday visiting Baynard only for away games.
But while St. Mark’s hopes to raise the money for its own lights in the near future, until the parking situation is resolved, the Spartans will always play the majority of their games at Baynard. And even if one day parking is no longer an issue, the Spartans might never completely abandon their home away from home, and that suits Wilson just fine.
"I think the parents and students would think it’s odd not to play at least a few games at Baynard," Wilson said. "I like it the way it is now. We have our kickoff classic and homecoming games at St. Mark’s, and we play four games at Baynard with the Bermuda grass and lights. It is a unique situation, but it seems to work out quite fine for us."
Baynard Stadium is named after Samuel H. Baynard, a member of the Wilmington Board of Park Commissions in the early 1900s who was instrumental in the building of the stadium and other athletic fields in the park.
Jon Buzby is the Delaware correspondent for MaxPreps.com.