It’s 2021, it’s early autumn and the one hundredth and twenty-first Bell Game is about to kick off. Dutch Clark Stadium is at full capacity with standing room only because for one last time Pueblo wants to see the final game of Centennial versus Central. The last Bulldog versus Wildcat. The last time Pueblo can say The Bell rings red or blue. At least it’s the last time it means anything.
The oldest football rivalry west of the Mississippi River will be played for the last night as Pueblo, well old Pueblo, plays out one last tradition. Two years ago, back in 2019 that same old Pueblo had to restructure its school district and close high schools because of a lost decade.
In 2022, Pueblo City Schools plans to change the names and promises a Bell Game. Pueblo Combined H.S. will play Pueblo Central to keep the tradition alive. But it won’t be the same. Pueblo won’t be the same.
Few from outside of Pueblo County understand Puebloans’ mania and pride in defining itself by what high school one attended. Fewer understand what it means if Pueblo is forced to close one or more of its high schools in order to stave off Pueblo City Schools’ building crisis.
The district lists $750 million is needed for school repairs and upgrades. The district will ask for $200 million or more in a bond to upgrade, replace and combine schools.
The plans presented from closing schools and consolidating schools is a nightmare scenario that cuts across the very fabric of Pueblo.
What would it mean for there to be one less high school rivalry game?