This summer will bring much-needed updates to Stoker Field. “That field has been there forever, and there is an emotional attachment to that particular field for many of our community members.” Grass Lake Community Schools Superintendent Ryle Kiser
By John Hummer
Old Howard Stoker Memorial Field in Grass Lake on the curve of South Union Street will be getting a facelift in the coming months. The remodeling effort, slated for this summer, will be sure to please many people throughout the Grass Lake community.
“It’s the old football field – it’s where the old-timers used to play football. Everybody has an attachment to that in one way, shape, or form,” said Ryle Kiser, superintendent of Grass Lake Community Schools. “At the same time, it’s going to meet some growing demands of our community – better soccer fields and more availability for little league football. It’s just going to be a much better and safer facility.”
The field was dedicated as Howard Stoker Memorial Field shortly after Grass Lake High School senior and all-state football player Howard Stoker, pictured left, was killed on Dec. 1, 1972, just months before his high school graduation. Later in the 1970s, volunteers replaced the all-dirt running track with the asphalt and rubberized coated six-lane track that currently exists.
Since then, Grass Lake students, families, and community members have made much use of the field. It is the home of Grass Lake High School boys and girls varsity soccer, and middle school and youth football. It’s used extensively by Grass Lake schools’ physical education classes and for special events, as well as by community members using the track for walking or running. Thousands of hours of volunteer time invested into it has kept it as a usable school and community facility but use and age have crept up on it. (more below)
The following changes will occur in the summer of 2022:
The current six-lane track will be removed and replaced with an eight-foot-wide walking track consisting of an asphalt base and a rubberized coating.
The athletic field will be stripped of sod, re-seeded, and widened to accommodate varsity soccer.
A water well and automatic sprinkling system will be installed.
New combination goals for football and soccer will be installed.
A new scoreboard will be installed. (more below)
Kiser said the cost to remodel Stoker Field will be approximately $150,000. Currently, it’s slated to be paid for from the school district’s fund balance and a donation from Bobby Stoker and his R-n-D Dirtworks, LLC, but Kiser is eyeing other funds as well. “We’re trying to partner up with some support groups in the area that promote wellness – like the 5 Healthy Towns program,” he stated. “They haven’t committed to it yet – we’re working on that.”
Pending enough funding, the district hopes that 2023 will see further improvements that may include new fencing, upgraded concession stands with new bathrooms, and fitness and playground equipment. Ideas are also being explored for use of the area of land located to the northeast of the existing facility.
“It’s something I think our community is going to catch hold of,” Kiser said of the remodeling effort. “That field has been there forever, and there is an emotional attachment to that particular field for many of our community members. By giving it an upgrade and a facelift, I think it’s going to make them feel a lot better about it.”
The field will be closed to public use while it is being remodeled.