Editor: In a recent Dispatch article an individual was quoted as stating that some people would want to hang on to Unruh Stadium for “sentimental” reasons. Since that reason is apparently now off limits, I will instead appeal to logic.
Unruh Stadium is a remarkable facility, in large part due to the artisanship of the depression era WPA workers who painstakingly cut and fit the limestone blocks together. No one builds such stadiums anymore, in large part due to the cost of such quality materials and specialized labor. Limestone is expensive because it is superior in durability as well as the obvious aesthetic reasons. For a second opinion please see Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan. A new stadium built near the high school may be newer, but the cold, metal bleachers will never match the beauty of the current stadium. In time taxpayers will be called on to update the “new” stadium with another round of replacement tin, but barring deliberate demolition, Unruh Stadium will continue to stand.
But why stop there?
Using the same logic, perhaps Clay County taxpayers should also replace the Courthouse. After all, by razing it a perfectly fine metal shed could be erected in its place, in the process sparing residents the burden of replacing or updating wiring, restrooms, or FEMA approved windows in the future. A “shed” would not be as attractive, but at least Clay County citizens would have a “new” structure.
Following that logical move, the City could then move on to the Band Shell. It is old—and as demonstrated in the current debate regarding our football stadium—we need new facilities because newer is obviously better. The zoo would undoubtedly be next. Maybe that crater could be filled in, the hand-built stone walkways and bridges demolished, and a boring zoo could be built on flat ground with identical cages for the inhabitants. And then there is Schaulis Field…so many historic edifices and so little taxpayer money. Who really wants a zoo, or any other facility, that exudes character and history?
About ten years ago we faced a similar decision in my community. We chose to refurbish our stadium. It wasn’t without cost, but I honestly do not recall a single disparaging remark since that time. Visitors often make positive remarks regarding our stadium and atmosphere at the park where it is located, which serves as a reminder of the impact of decisions that honor the tradition and history of a community.
What makes a community special are the people who live and work there, but it’s undeniable that we also build memories around places and facilities. When I think of my hometown, the football stadium may not be first on the list, but Clay Center as a community would be diminished if Unruh Stadium is replaced.
Some decisions can’t be dismissed as sentimental; sometimes the best decision makes sense too.
-- Roger Erickson, rural Walton