There were tears, cheers and many memories recalled at Friday’s last football game played at Ashley Field.
Following Sun Prairie nail-biting 21-13 Big Eight Conference win over Madison West, a groundbreaking ceremony took place to usher out the “Old Ashley” and pre-dedicate the “New Ashley” Field.
“Ashley Field has been a special place for this community for years and years,” said Brad Saron, Superintendent of the Sun Prairie Area School District. “It has a rich history of sporting events, music events, graduation ceremonies and so much more.”
Saron added: “We want to commemorate Ashley Field and look forward to an Ashley Field Stadium that will serve this community into the future.”
“You all can say that you at this event and can tell people decades from now that you were at the last game here,” said Sun Prairie City Council President Bill Connors.
Connors eluded to the new stadium as being more than just a sports arena and high school venue.
“We’re looking forward to many kinds of events happening and this becoming a regional attraction that will draw people from all over to our downtown; eventually our downtown will start to grow toward this new stadium,” he said. “I want to congratulate the school board, the administration of the school district and the voters of Sun Prairie Area School District to make this new dream come true.”
Part of the groundbreaking ceremony were high school Principal Keith Nerby, the Sun Prairie Board of Education: President Steve Schroeder, Vice President Tom Weber, Treasurer Dave Hoekstra, Clerk Carol Sue Albright, Deputy Clerk Marilyn Ruffin, Government Officer Bryn Horton and board member Caren Diedrich, along with student members Emily Flood and Quinn Williams.
“This is really an exciting time for the school district, we thank you for being here and thank you for supporting our students, in and out of the classroom,” said Schroeder.
Schroeder then acknowledged Diedrich, who was celebrating her 75th birthday Friday. Diedrich, the longest tenured school board member having served since 1998, was presented a bouquet of flowers before being serenaded with a rendition of happy birthday led by the football team.
Also in attendance Friday were representatives of Bray Architects and J.H. Findorff & Sons, Inc., who have partnered with the Sun Prairie School District and will oversee the construction of the new multi-purpose field and facility.
“Moving forward we look for new opportunities for our student-athletes as a result of this new multi-purpose field,” said Sun Prairie Athletics and Activities Director Eric Nee. “The field will host football, lacrosse and soccer games, but will also have the ability to host events such as movie nights.”
Construction of the new field will be completed by the first game of the 2020 season, and Aug. 21 non-conference meeting with Hudson. The 4,500-seat facility will have new bleachers, concession stands, synthetic turf, scoreboards, new restrooms and new locker rooms.
“I want to thank our football, pom and dance and both boys and girls lacrosse teams for being in attendance,” Nee added.
Brian Kaminski is part of the legacy of Ashley Field, having led the Cardinals to eight Big Eight Conference championships in his 17 seasons as head football coach. “I’ve been here for 23 years and of course my father-in-law (Mike Hahn) had been her for over 30, that’s over 50 years on this field,” he said. “It means a lot to my family: my wife grew up on this field, my brother-in-law played on this field and I was very excited to have my son (Jerry, a freshman quarterback) play on this field as well.”
Following the ceremony, bottles of the freshly-dug dirt were handed out to spectators as mementos.
Construction will begin on the new field once it its known that the Cardinals have played the official last game at the current field: Sun Prairie will be on the road in the WIAA Division 1 playoffs this week, but could host a second-round game on Nov. 1, pending Friday’s outcome against Verona.