On a cool and breezy Saturday afternoon, and with a thin cloud of diesel smoke wafting through the air, Tabor College and Unified School District 410 broke ground for a jointly funded facility for football and track and field.
The afternoon was billed as an Anticipation Party and Groundbreaking Ceremony.
The party included free admission for the entire community to the Tabor College football game against Kansas Wesleyan. Fans received commemorative cups and footballs and other items from the campus bookstore, and cotton candy and cupcakes were available for every?one.
?The Anticipation Party and Groundbreaking Ceremony was a tribute to the character of the project,? Tabor College President Jules Glanzer said. ?You have two major entities of the community combining their resources and expertise to create a facility to benefit the entire community, and that will bring new business to the Hillsboro community.?
At halftime, representatives from the college and school district praised the project and the unique partnership that is making the new $4.4 million stadium a reality.
?A great number of Tabor College athletes have competed on this football field and track over the years, but the time has come for a change,? said Rusty Allen, Tabor vice president for athletics.
?We believe this project will enhance not only athletic programs for the high school and the college, but also the entire community.?
Wearing a Hillsboro Trojans cap and a Tabor Bluejays sweatshirt, Hillsboro High School principal Max Heinrichs?an alum of both schools?said the new facility would rival any facility anywhere.
?It?s a great day for both of our learning organizations, a defining moment,? Heinrichs said. ?I would like to thank the USD 410 and the Tabor College communities for making this dream a reality. Go Trojans and go Bluejays.?
Rod Koons, president of the USD 410 Board of Education, said the stadium project exemplifies the best of community teamwork.
?As an acronym, the word ?team? stands for Together Everyone Accomplishes More, and that?s what this project is about,? Koons said. ?It?s not a Tabor project; it?s not a USD 410 project. It is a joint community project. And because we?re working together, we can create a facility that will be the envy of everyone in the area.?
Del Reimer, former athletic director and coach at Tabor College, for whom the current stadium, Reimer Field, is named, said it was ?high time? for a stadium upgrade.
?In 1961, this field was dedicated, and after 47 years of activities on this field, we are now embarking on an upgrade,? said Reimer, a former president of the USD 410 board, ?which I think is very good.?
?I want to commend the USD 410 and the college for working together on this project. I?m excited and looking forward to this. Maybe the next time I come out, it will be on that new field.?
Turning the sod
Groundbreaking took on its literal meaning immediately following the Bluejays? 63-34 loss to Kansas Wesleyan.
President Glanzer had decided the actual act of breaking ground for the new stadium needed to be something special, which meant the traditional golden-shovel routine would never do.
Glanzer, who grew up on a farm in South Dakota, decided what the ceremony needed was a tractor?preferably one big enough to make a statement about the relative importance of the project at hand.
Enter ?The Green Giant?: a mammoth eight-wheeled John Deere Model 9220 owned by Dale Klassen, a member of the USD 410 Board of Education, and driven for the occasion by his father, Lloyd.
When the big moment came after the game, Lloyd fired up the tractor?s 325-horsepower turbo diesel engine and the 32,934-pound machine rumbled down the length of the field on wheels standing more than 6 feet high.
It rolled into the north end zone and turned back 180-degrees to face south. Dozens of discs, each about the size of manhole covers, hovered over the goal line.
As the Tabor pep band played, the tractor revved its engine and dropped its discs.
In a matter of seconds, the implement, weighing several tons, cut deep gashes in the field?a single swath as wide as the hash marks and about 20 yards long.
Schoolboys wearing Tabor football sweatshirts grabbed pieces of the turned-up sod and tossed them into the air. A grown man who had played on the field took home a chunk of sod as a souvenir of his glory days.
After the hoopla, the north goalpost was a twisted wreck following the effort of Tabor football players to tear it down, the field was irreparably gashed between the hash marks?and President Glanzer was all smiles.
?It really felt good to see that tractor drive on there and turn the sod,? Glanzer said.
Even though the Bluejays lost the last game to be played on the old Reimer Field, Glanzer pointed out that Tabor had scored the last touchdown.
?It was neat to see the players tear the goalpost down,? Glanzer added. ?Not every team gets to do something like that.?
In addition to the new football field, the project will include a new synthetic track and a throwing area for field events; new bleachers on the home side, a new press box, and a new concession stand and restroom facilities.
In addition, the project calls for a new team locker room to be constructed at the north end of the stadium.
The facility will be named Joel Wiens Stadium. Wiens, a Wyoming businessman, gave the school $1.22 million in 2006, the largest donation in the school?s history.
Actual construction will not begin until final plans have been approved.
The college and school district, each to contribute an equal share of the funding, lost an estimated $800,000 through rising construction costs during the 16 months the partnership was being challenged in court by a USD patron.
Adjustments to the building plan are nearing completion.