Michael Catanzarite is friends with a lot of people in Strongsville.
As he sat amongst those friends on a Friday night back in 2001 to watch a Strongsville High School football game, he could not help but notice the decaying structure that the team called home.
“It was probably the worst stadium in all of Ohio,” Catanzarite says. “Horrible.”
Taliak Field was nearly 50 years old and its day had come and gone. Catanzarite lives in Strongsville and is CEO of the Strongsville-based company Darice Inc., founded by his father Pat Catan.
“I said we should organize a group of people and see what we can do to build a new stadium at the high school instead of at the junior high school where it was at,” Catanzarite says. “And that’s what started it.”
The Catan name was already well known in the city and the region, but now it was going up in lights on a brand new football stadium for Strongsville High School.
The stadium cost about $1.5 million to build and opened in 2002 adjacent to the high school.
“We put in half a million dollars for the stadium,” Catanzarite says. “We put in the seed money to get it going. We’re not going to get half a million dollars out of it, but who cares? I’m just big on every day doing the right thing and trying to help people in the community. That’s what it’s all about.”
It’s great for people to know your name, but it’s what you do with that fame and recognition that determines your legacy. Catanzarite says his father was never the type of person who craved the spotlight. He just wanted to serve his customers.
“He was the most humble guy in the world,” Catanzarite says. “He’d stand in the back of the line. He was raised in the Depression, no money, worked three jobs. His famous line to us all was, ‘You put your ego in the closet and just leave it there because it can only get you in trouble.’”
So the idea of naming the new Strongsville stadium wasn’t the culmination of a dream for Pat Catan, who by the early 2000s was not in good health. As the stadium was being built and before his father died in 2003, Catanzarite said it was suggested to him that he name the stadium after his father.
“It wasn’t about the advertising,” Catanzarite says. “We want to be good community leaders because we draw employees from the community. A lot of our employees live in this community. That makes them feel good about where they work, which is an important part of the culture.”
For the personable Catanzarite, every game played at the new stadium is another reason to smile.
“We’re always proud of the things we do when we don’t really want to get anything out of it,” Catanzarite says.