Greenville’s new Legacy Field brings everything together (Photo Gallery)


By Bruce Bentley • Last Updated 3:34 pm on Thursday, August 23, 2012

A panoramic view from the 50-yard line of the visitors’ bleachers, located on the east side of the field. Fans will sit well above the field while still remaining relatively close to the sidelines. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Black Field was home to Greenville High School football for many decades. And now Legacy Field will be home to those same high school football games for many decades to come.

The two fields, though, are no doubt linked forever in more ways than one.

Just a quick glance at the new facility and you will see something familiar. A closer inspection will uncover a link to much of the history that made Black Field, so special to those who played on the field or watched from the stands.

Moving to a new location and building a new football stadium wasn’t an easy decision for administrators who presented the idea. It wasn’t an easy decision for those who may or may not have voted for the school bond, which was used to build the new facility.

What was an easy decision, was replicating Black Field in every way possible.

LEGACY FIELD PHOTO GALLERY

 

“If you are standing on Legacy Field it feels like Black Field. If you are in the stands it feels like Black Field,” Greenville superintendent Pete Haines said. “Our community was very clear with that expectation. We didn’t want to lose something because we were moving. That was the fear and I hope we belayed that fear.”

Haines sees Legacy Field as a way to unite the community.

“I see a wonderful opportunity to unite the community. To bring the community together,” he said. “Not just for a football game or the band, but really for our history. This is so much bigger than football. It really is.”

An Extraordinary Design
Throughout construction of Legacy Field, and no doubt for many years to follow, visitors express wonder over the unique characteristics of our new stadium.
For the faithful Greenville fan, a number of features readily remind them of what most inspired this visionary design, our own D.K. Black Field. While careful attention has been paid to designing a new facility with more than adequate capacity and exceptional safety features, the joy in sharing the new home for our students, whether they play football, march in our bands, lead us in spirited cheers, or pronounce their passion from the stands, is in celebrating the storied past which has so heavily influenced the final design. In the short stories that follow, we hope you too will be moved by the rich history we continue to embrace.
After much consideration, and many suggestions from students, staff and community members the name “Legacy Field” was selected. The term legacy refers to property or things of great value (like traditions and memories) which are “handed down” from ancestors to those that follow. Our new stadium is filled with references to our rich past, honoring the many proud moments and even some sad memories which define us to this day. We open this facility celebrating our past, and embarking on the next phase of a journey which will include a new set of stories, memories, accomplishments, and relationships we will pass on to generations to come. — Pete Haines, Greenville Public Schools superintendent

With that being said, Legacy Field was the perfect name for such a beautiful stadium.

“The definition of ‘legacy’ is something that is handed down from generation to generation,” Haines said. “This was a gift from past generations and all of the pieces that brought it here and yet it will be a gift to future generations.”

There are many reminders of Black Field and all of its history throughout Legacy Field.

The Centennial Clock
Truly one of the most exciting stories is that of the grand timepiece which overlooks Legacy Field from its perch at the north end of the stadium. Originally installed as construction of Central High School in 1912 was completed, the clock was a celebration of generosity and perseverance on the part of a community who labored to raise the funds for its purchase.
When the long vacant building, adjacent to D.K. Black Field was demolished in 1977, a handful of artifacts, including the clock, were thoughtfully preserved. The clock found its way to a new space in the front wall of the Flat River Historical Museum where it stayed for the next 35 years.
As construction of Legacy Field was taking place, hopes for inclusion of a clock seemed beyond reach, until the Board of Trustees from the museum donated the clock back to Greenville Public Schools for installation a full century after its initial dedication. All of the labor involved in moving the clock was donated by Builder’s Glass of Greenville and a plaque commemorating the 100-year journey was sponsored by the Greenville High School Class of 1962 in celebration of its 50th anniversary. — P.H.

Most visible is the newly dedicated Centennial Clock. While not actually located at Black Field, the clock was first situated in 1912 on the front of the old Greenville Central Intermediate School, across the street from the football field. The school, which was in use until 1961, was torn down in 1977. The clock was then preserved and moved to the Flat River Historical Museum.

Today, that same clock rests on the north side of Legacy Field above the plaza for all to see.

Not as visible is a concrete block from 1924. The block, used to build the first retaining wall at Black Field is now located as part of a pillar in the same plaza as the Centennial Clock.

“The class of 1924 built the first wall and that brick is what they laid in the wall,” Haines said. “It was fitting to move the brick here and remind us of the retaining wall at Black Field.”

 Another Bowl?
From early in the design, community members made clear the importance of actively participating in the events we will host at Legacy Field. Whether listening to our fine bands, chanting in harmony with our cheerleaders, or rooting on our football teams, we are used to being close to the action. By constructing the new field with bleachers on sloped hills, and a field lowered and not separated by a typical running track, Greenville fans and guests will be right on top of all the action, as they are accustomed at D.K. Black Field. Quite simply, building a stadium like most others just wasn’t the right decision for Greenville. It had to be a bowl. — P.H.

Like Black Field, the new field is below the seating surface. This retaining wall surrounds the stadium and not just on one side.

The Franklin Street Bridge
Just as the steep hills bordered D.K. Black Field, Legacy Field has been constructed with bleachers built on high banks overlooking the playing surface below. The original site near Union (Central) High School was a deep gully spanned by a long wooden bridge in line with Franklin Street to the north of the school and south of the field. The bridge was known for its place in the romance of youngsters who likely walked hand-in-hand across its distance. Though the bridge was removed many years ago, and likely for the purpose of developing the baseball and eventual football fields below, we have been fortunate to recreate that feature in the plaza area above the tunnel. We fully expect the carefree days of youth will include strolls along this plaza during some of our most exciting events for many years to come. — P.H.

Perhaps the most touching of all the Black Field reminders are two memorials located in the walls of Legacy Field. Two numbers are indented into the wall as a memorial for two Yellow Jackets that tragically lost their lives playing football.

In the end zone, the No. 4 is there to remind us of Henry Loding, who lost his life in 1904. Along the west sideline, the No. 8 rests to remind us of Greg Blumberg who was injured during a 1977 game in Lakeview and passed away days later.

Following Loding’s death, the football program was discontinued for 12 seasons. Along the northeast wall, a break in the wall stretches from the goal line to the 12-yard line to remind us of the years without football.

Learning From Great Loss
To some, losing an important athletic contest is of great significance. At Greenville, we understand and appreciate that there are far greater tragedies. Two devastating events from our own history are represented in design cues at Legacy Field. The first, a number “4” permanently molded into the retaining wall at the south end of the field helps us remember the earliest days of organized high school athletics, and the inherent danger of such an aggressive activity. On Nov. 5, 1904, as reported by the Greenville Independent newspaper at the time, and more recently in The Daily News, Henry Loding, a Greenville player, was injured in a head-on collision on the field. Later in the game, he collapsed near the back of the endzone, was rushed away for medical care, but passed away that evening. The game of football was abruptly suspended in Greenville for the next 12 years. But, a committed community member, Dr. Duncan K. Black believed so strongly in the value of athletics, that he coordinated the dedication of outdoor athletic fields, donating much of the property himself, for what later bore his name, D.K. Black Field. After years of absence, young men from the community began organizing their recreation into a formidable football team once more.
Football had returned to Greenville High School and in no time, our athletes earned a reputation for talent and character which has defined all of our athletes for the many decades since. Then, on Sept. 8, 1977, tragedy struck once more. This time, Greenville’s Greg Blumberg collided with another player in the season’s opening game at Lakeview. Our own Jeff ‘Doc’ Day was the first to respond to the downed player who he was able to revive on the field. Greg survived three weeks with the significant spinal injury, but has left a mark on the hearts of every Greenville player and fan since. In a Daily News editorial written at the time by John Stafford himself, he referenced important lessons learned including: “…we should be reminded to make each day count, and above all to appreciate one another, while we’re here.” As a reminder to all of our players of the dangers inherent in the game of football, and as an example of great courage in the face of tragedy, Greg’s number “8” stands with our team along the home sideline near the 40-yard line where his fateful collision occurred. — P.H.

Two trophy cases in the base of the press box displays memorabilia from multiple generations. It’s a display of more Greenville football history.

On Monday, an open house was held. It was a chance for community members to tour the new stadium for the first time. The response was the same from most.

“It’s beautiful,” 1962 Greenville graduate Stan Blumberg simply said.

A Break in Football Action
Following the tragic loss of Henry Loding in 1904, the community agreed to suspend the game of football for the next several years. Football was simply too aggressive an activity and represented too great a risk. It wasn’t until Dr. Black initiated a push to provide athletic fields for the students of Greenville High School, that some of the youthful play began to organize into a regular football program in 1916. Legacy Field has been constructed with a bowl structure much like D.K. Black Field, but with a tall retaining wall encircling the field providing appropriate distance between the barrier and the field of play, but not distancing spectators from the action. The wall features a distinctive relief along the northeast sideline which reminds us all of the years when football was not a part of our school program. Further, the field surface itself has been constructed to the most rigorous standards for athlete safety. — P.H.

New stadium features include a kids playing area, extra room on the concourse and restrooms, a gas bonfire pit for after game celebrations, reserved seating, an artificial turf playing surface, a spacious press box and neatly manicured landscaping throughout the stadium.

“I think this has to be the showcase of high school fields in the entire midwest,” Greenville resident Larry Taylor said. “The facilities are great, the turf is amazing, the press box is nice and I’m glad they made the move.”

Reflecting at the Bonfire
While our most recent classes might share the tradition of celebrating a valiant effort on the football field by meeting at the bonfire, this tradition has much deeper roots in Greenville. Though there are no formal records, the stories of teams and fans, from home and our visiting schools gathering around such a bonfire after events at D.K. Black Field are yet another component of an already rich history. When early designs for Legacy Field were developed, inclusion of a permanent brick fire pit was suggested as a way to accommodate bonfires within the stadium at all future home events. The brick lined fire pit is gas-fed so that no logs will need to be brought in, and no ashes or other waste removed from a fire with instant emergency shut-off capability. We look forward to many years of post-game bonfires to come! — P.H.

Greenville Athletic Director Brian Zdanowski was happy to see everything finally come together.

“It has come out pretty much as well thought it would,”  Zdanowski said. “There have been a lot of nights thinking about what we are missing, what we need and making sure everything is right. It has come to fruition.”

Football coach Dave Moore called Black Field in the past special. He thinks the same of his new playing field.

“What’s not to love,” Moore said. “I like the history of things. I like how we made it like Black Field, I like the Centennial Clock and the numbers in the wall. That is what makes this place special and not just another football field.”

During the Centennial Clock dedication on Monday, Haines said, “Only if you do it right. That is the only way we could ever move from Black Field to somewhere else.”

After Monday’s open house, it was obvious they did it right.