Outside the Huddle is profiling which 10 area football stadiums it feels are the best around as we count down the days until (hopefully) the start of football season in […]
Outside the Huddle is profiling which 10 area football stadiums it feels are the best around as we count down the days until (hopefully) the start of football season in August.
Each facility is rated on four factors – game night atmosphere, design, amenities and team success, as well as testimonials from the home team, the opposition and the enigmatic Blitz himself.
No. 7 Memorial Field
Location: Garrett High School
First season: 1980
Playing surface: Grass
Named for: All of the servicemen and servicewomen that have served our country who have passed.
SCORE BREAKDOWN (1 – lowest; 5 – highest)
Game night atmosphere: 4
Perhaps it is the fact that we at OTH like trains, but there is something exciting about being inundated with railroad crossing lights, locomotive sounds and train line logos all over and around Memorial Field.
Garrett’s nickname is the Railroaders, and it spares no expense in reminding you incessantly on Friday nights.
While we have some beautiful facilities in Fort Wayne, OTH still enjoys getting out of the metro area and enjoying some of the simple setups of area high school football digs. Garrett does it right, with plentiful crowd support, a solid student section and an excitement level that is difficult to match elsewhere.
With the school and stadium smack dab in the middle of town, the light towers, music and PA can be heard from nearly all points of Garrett. Friday nights are community events at Memorial Field, that counts for a lot.
Between the drums leading the team down the street to the field to the pre-game explosions (OTH loves fire), it is altogether different to be at Garrett on Fridays.
There is nothing in particular that stands out about Memorial Field, fitting the aesthetic of a blue-collar, hard working town like Garrett. The identity of the facility fits the school and the community – an altogether simple gem that is cherished much more by those close to it than visitors.
There is plenty of home seating on one side, and enough for the visitors to make it a tight fit for a big game. The scoreboard is large, bright and adorned at the top by railroad crossing signals, complete with bells and lights.
The field is well maintained and adorned with a massive Railroaders logo at midfield more often that not.
Typical fare at the concession stands don’t wow anyone, but they aren’t slacking behind either. The press box is sizable enough to house a plethora of media and workers.
The majority of parking is done in the school parking lot, but overflows into the surrounding community, making for an interesting tapestry of chaos before and after games.
Team success: 3.5
It is important to put all of these categories into context when talking about teams, but especially team success. Are Bishop Luers and Bishop Dwenger having more team success in terms of winning championships than Garrett? Well, yeah. But OTH is grading this stuff on a curve, because the realistic goals of Program A are different from Program B.
Anyway, Garrett has won three sectional championships in the Memorial Field era, most recently in 2016 with a 29-26 victory over Jimtown that was one of the more exciting games in the last decade that no one talks about.
Most years, the Railroaders are a contender in the NECC Big School Division, most recently finishing first in 2015 and 2016.
Total score: 14
Garrett coach/former player Chris DePew: Personally, I love that it’s home, the same field where I played and always lived. When the wind is right, my wife swears she can hear me yelling at football practice from our back yard. We live a mile away. The field is right here in town. On Friday nights, from almost anywhere in town, you can see the lights, hear the music, the PA and the fans. Our drum corps leads us down Harrison Street to take the field and then the Custer boys literally blow things up as we run out. The train horn blows so loud that everyone in town knows when we score. Then after the game, everyone comes down,holds hands and fills the entire field with a circle to pray. Football and Garrett are so much a part of each other.
Churubusco coach Paul Sade: Playing at Garrett is probably the best environment consistently in the NECC. Field is always in good shape and the Garrett community is very supportive of their athletics and have a greater knowledge base than casual fans. Railroader football is a way of life for Garrett folks.
From the pre-game festivities to the scoring celebrations to the post-game prayer circle, football IS Garrett. That’s what puts the Railroaders and other small-school fields ahead of some others on this list. The ranking is not about one aspect or a field or facility, it is about the all-encompassing experience. You FEEL a part of Garrett football at Memorial Field on Friday nights. That feel is inexplainable, but it is unique and feels right.
Coming Saturday: No. 6