Heiting Community Stadium: More than sports
By Thom Gerretsen
“If you build it, they will come.”
The classic line in the 1989 film “Field of Dreams” is often mentioned when communities talk about new structures for sports, culture, etc. No, they don’t always come. But many people who have never or rarely watched high school football in Marshfield did so during the Tigers’ first season at Heiting Community Stadium.
Want proof? Just look back to Nov. 15. Marshfield wasn’t even playing on that nippy Friday night. But close to 2,000 fans came to Heiting to watch a WIAA Division 3 state semifinal game between top-seeded Menomonie and No. 2 Menasha. It was an exciting, intense contest in which Menasha came back from 21 points down to pull off a 36-35 upset.
I walked five minutes to get there. Most fans traveled about 100 miles from either the west or the east to cheer on their hometown teams, with a spot in the state finals at stake. It was the first time in my memory that Marshfield hosted a state semi since the WIAA started playing them at neutral sites. And it was made possible by the new stadium’s many modern features, including artificial turf.
My former WDLB-WOSQ radio partner Mike Warren saw lots of Menomonie fans drive in as he was heading to Eau Claire to broadcast a Division 7 semifinal between Bangor and central Wisconsin powerhouse Edgar. It reminded him of the new facility’s economic benefits. He said, “I’m glad they called it a ‘community’ stadium because it has impacts beyond serving student-athletes and fans.” That’s a reference to the food, gasoline and other things that fans buy in the places where their games are played.
I know it goes well beyond that. I took part in sports during my entire four years at Grant Community High School in Fox Lake, IL, from 1966-70. It wasn’t until much later that I started appreciating the benefits.
It was not the competition itself. When I left Grant, I held the school record for being pinned the fastest in wrestling; my match against an opponent from North Chicago lasted only 12 seconds. I wasn’t much better in four years of track, three years of cross country, and one season of football where my only real accomplishment as a freshman was to recover a teammate’s fumble. They did have “participation trophies” back then. For making it through my senior year, I was given varsity letters in cross country, wrestling and track.
Look for part two of this story next week.