PCI vice Principal Mark Dibol helped mold the football program at the school and is retiring at the end of the month
A field of dreams
Outgoing vice Principal Mark Dibol and Trojans' head coach Donald Burrell pose with a team signed ball which was a gift from the team for Dibol's retirement at their awards night. He helped bring football to PCI. (Aaron Wilgosh/The Graphic)
One man’s dream has become more than just a football program.
Portage Collegiate Institute’s outgoing vice-principal Mark Diboll came to Portage la Prairie with the idea of getting a football program started and now PCI field is one of the most iconic sights while traveling through the city.
“I got to Portage and there were two high schools still which meant there weren’t enough bodies to get a team together. Then the amalgamation was planned in 2005,” says Diboll. “I was planning to get a football team going the whole time. In 2006 I spent that first year fundraising and building the foundation so we could have it the following year.”
2007 was the first year of the football program thanks to a serious round of fundraising from Diboll. Community foundations and local businesses got on board as well, as many stepped up with massive financial donations to help get things going.
“Pizza Hotline, Subway, Blue Moon Water and MIG have been big supporters of the football program right from the start,” says Diboll. “Canadian Tire even helped out by donating a lawn tractor to help us maintain the field once it was created.”
The field began coming to life in 2006 when the new parking lot was being constructed between the two buildings. A quick trip to the school division and a very understanding school board helped pave the way for a parking lot a little closer to the west, and a new football field to the east. The sod taken from the parking lot job was then used to level and crown the field, something Diboll himself helped get approved.
“I talked to the engineer and said I know we can get the field in there again,” he says. “The end zones are ten feet short on both ends and we left the extra 10 yards at midfield because there’s more action there.”
The old field was like a rollercoaster and it wasn’t level or set up well from the start. The crowning has the field draining near perfectly which led to another issue. With just one field and over 1000 students running gym classes on it, it gets pounded down, which causes the grass not to grow. Another round of fundraising ended with the purchase of an aerator which is towed behind the tractor. Diboll, along with help from Murray Hogarth, even put in two water lines that hook up to a pump to help water the field and keep it looking bright.
“It’s made such a difference and now the field survives and thrives, for the amount of pounding that it takes, there is a lot of work to maintain it,” says Diboll. “I hope that continues too because if not it won’t take long before it’s a dustbowl again. We get lots of compliments on it from out of town teams. I really look at like it’s my very own backyard rink.”
PCI field stands out with a mid-field announcer booth that was erected in 2013, along with the large score clock on the side of the Prince Charles Building, which was installed in 2007. The facility is also equipped with a sound system which the head ref can connect to so penalties and announcements can be made right through the speakers.
“The one thing I would’ve liked to have done before I retired was to install a mud room for the teams because our change rooms won’t fit them,” adds Diboll. “40 to 50 players shouldn’t be changing right at the bleachers. That’s not good. This year we were fortunate because we used the drama room because drama was only taken in the second semester.”
Portage Collegiate’s football team officially took to the field in 2007 and found immediate success, winning the Currie Division Championship the next year. Head coaches have come and gone from the team but Diboll is confident their latest acquisition, Donald Burrell, will continue to carry the program with high regards.
“You always get a little nervous when you’re leaving the nest but I feel very confident with Burrell running the program,” laughs Diboll. “I’ll still be around because I won’t be able to just step away from something like this. I put a lot of heart and soul into it and I know I’ll never be able to walk away.”
Diboll plans to travel with his wife in retirement but you can bet you’ll see him on the sidelines come football season.