Heiting Community Stadium: More than just sports
By Thom Gerretsen
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Part 2 of a column first published in the Nov. 27 edition. It would have appeared last week but was delayed due to the coverage of former Mayor Marilyn Hardacre’s death. In Part 1, Gerretsen described how the new Heiting Community Stadium benefits not only the high school athletes who perform there, but Marshfield as a whole. He also began to explain how prep sports helped him in life, though he was far from the best wrestler and runner while earning his varsity letters.
I didn’t really earn those letters until years later – when I found journalistic success by applying the values I learned from high school sports. Dedication. Determination. Drive. Teamwork. Learning from both the positive and negative. Showing respect for others – bosses and co-workers, news sources, listeners/readers, etc.
When I stray from those values, that’s where my downfalls occur.
The $7.5 million stadium has also hosted Tiger soccer matches and will provide enough quality for Marshfield to start hosting track meets in 2020. It’s part of an $11 million school sports complex that will also include new baseball and softball fields and reworked facilities at Marshfield’s old football home at the middle school. The school district sought to raise $7 million from the community. More than 560 donors made that possible within just 15 months. You’ll see many of their names in the stadium.
When I entered for the Menomonie-Menasha game, I saw a woman reading numerous donors’ names on tiles surrounding the Tiger statue. I didn’t disturb her – she looked as if she was in thought. Those names and others created a gorgeous and well-equipped place that not only benefits students who may never get to play football in college and/or the pros — it also attracts events like the state Level 4 semifinal playoff. It was a great show of Wisconsin’s best high school talent that would have entertained and inspired any football fan who saw it.
It’s often said that what we consider the most important is exposed by how much we give to it. Ken Heiting, who with his wife Ardyce is the stadium’s title sponsor, was a bank executive in Marshfield for years. I’ve never talked to Ken about prep sports or its impact on his career. But logic tells me there are more leaders than one could possibly imagine who have lived the principles they learned in high school sports.
Two other personal notes. My work schedules have prevented me from attending many high school athletic events during my 41 years in Marshfield – but now that I’m retired, I’m starting to play “catch-up” on that. And when I was a senior at Grant High, I was given a red-painted Army helmet as a member of our “Bleacher Bums” who made the most noise at our boys’ varsity basketball games. I still have that, and I’ll wear it proudly at our 50th anniversary class reunion in 2020.