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. 3 Shields Field
Location: Bishop Dwenger High School
First season: 2019
Playing surface: Turf
Named for: Jim and Margaret Shields, members of the Bishop Dwenger family and financially instrumental in several projects around the campus, including the first all-weather track in the state of Indiana.
SCORE BREAKDOWN (1 – lowest; 5 – highest)
Game night atmosphere: 4.25
It may have just a single year of hosting varsity football games under its belt, but Shields Field has become one of the best environments in northeast Indiana on Friday nights.
The crowd support is second to none, with generations of Bishop Dwenger graduates flocking to the facility last year. The first varsity football game on the campus of Bishop Dwenger against North Side brought in a near-capacity crowd, all of them pleased that no longer did the Saints have to trek to Zollner Stadium for home games.
The student section is large, loud and has a sizable portion of the home bleachers for itself. The history of Bishop Dwenger – both as a school and a football program – is both felt and seen on Fridays.
The facility that is not even yet a year old is first class in every respect, beginning with the main entrance. An archway welcomes you into Shields Field with the name adorning it, with the interlocking BD logo ingrained into the ground in front of it.
The turf, installed several years ago, remains one of the best surfaces around. There is plenty of seating on the home side – although visiting fans have complained that space is in short supply.
Locker rooms, restrooms and concession stands are all located nearby and are easily accessible.
It is easy to find a pre-game tailgate in the parking lot, and there is plenty of food to be had inside the facility as well.
Parking has been a hot-button talking point since the expansion of Shields Field was proposed. While a bottleneck for sure at its location at the corner of Washington Center and Clinton, parking and traffic have not been as much of an issue as some believed it would be.
Team success: 4
While technically Bishop Dwenger has won just a single sectional championship at Shields Field (a 42-0 victory over Northrop last year), you have to factor in all of the titles over the years when the field was just used for practice and lower-level games.
Name a Bishop Dwenger great and you can bet that they practiced on the very ground that the turf occupies today – decades of success built up with long hours and late nights of practice. It is the same case today, with Shields Field being the singular home of Bishop Dwenger football, from freshman and JV games to varsity practice and Friday night events.
Carroll coach Doug Dinan: “Shields Field at Bishop Dwenger High School is an outstanding complex. The atmosphere is great, Bishop Dwenger’s student body is very active, the facility is great, the locker rooms are attached and the turf gives a great surface. This addition for Bishop Dwenger is a great improvement.”
Bishop Dwenger coach Jason Garrett: “It is great to have a home field. The mantra established right away was “We Are Home.” The alumni. The support our school has had. Seeing guys like Andy Johns and Coach Svarczkopf and all the supporters we have at home is great. To have the traditions we have, from Mass to the spirit tree and take the field, our field. It really brings about the family atmosphere.”
Shields Field as a home of Bishop Dwenger on Friday nights is a relatively new concept, but the facility and its history dates back far longer than that. Taking all the history of Saints football into consideration, there is plenty to love about visiting Shields Field at any time, but particularly Friday nights.
Coming Wednesday: No. 2