Farewell to Black Field: Historic Greenville stadium leaves behind seven decades of memories

By Bruce Bentley • Last Updated 12:15 pm on Monday, October 17, 2011

Fans attending the final Greenville High School varsity football game at Black Field release hundreds of balloons into the air to commemorate the last game.

GREENVILLE — Football has been played at Black Field for more than 75 years.
It’s one of the most unique stadiums in West Michigan and possibly the entire state.
Greenville fans came out one final time for football at Black Field on Friday. The Greenville Yellow Jackets hosted the Lowell Red Arrows in the final varsity game at the historic stadium.
Greenville High School athletic trainer Jeff Day has probably witnessed more games at Black Field than anyone. As a player and trainer Day has been a part of 486 games.
“I don’t know how anyone can’t be excited about Friday night with the band playing, the air is crisp, the leaves are colored and a field of green in front of you,” Day said. “I think Black Field provides a great venue for that kind of endeavor.”
Day remembers when the football team was dropped off on Judd Street and had to make the walk down the northeast staircase leading to the field.
“We used to get off the bus and head down the stairs,” he said. “Clickety clack, clickety, clack with the metal spikes down the steps. I just don’t think it gets any better than that.”
On Friday night, it was overcast with a cool, sharp wind from the west that was the reason for a small covering of leaves in the endzone.
The closeness of the field to the fans is what most people enjoy most about the stadium.
“The way it’s in the bowl, the closeness of the players, I absolutely love it,” Mitch Czech said. “My first game here to visit I looked at the field and loved it.”
Czech isn’t a Greenville grad, but has been in the area for the past several years. He loves Black Field, but is looking forward to the new stadium.
“It’s a good move. People are against it,” he said. “I think even if we don’t make the playoffs we can host playoff games. And that brings money to the school and the city.”
Doug Sanders, a 1975 Greenville graduate, doesn’t want to leave Black Field where he has so many memories, including playing on the field as a freshman.
“Now it looks so much smaller. Back then as a freshman in high school it looked so big,” Sanders said. “To look at the crowd and all the fans it seemed like it was so much bigger back than.”
Just before the game the sky was littered with purple and yellow balloons released after the national anthem.
Following the game — a 35-7 loss to Lowell — fans lined the field taking photos and video of their final moments on the field. Some even taking bits of grass as a souvenir.
“What makes it special are the people you’ve encountered here through the years,” Day said. “There isn’t anyone that has been in the program that can say this place doesn’t have a special place in their hearts is lying.”

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