Concerned about the future of Goodrich Field, the Anoka City Council is asking the Anoka-Hennepin School District not to move athletic and other events away from the historic stadium at Fifth Avenue and Madison Street.
The concerns follow an ABC Newspapers report last month that the school district is considering whether to add synthetic turf to Goodrich Field or construct a new stadium with synthetic turf on the Anoka High School campus.
The school district has since told ABC Newspapers that it is committed to hosting some sporting events at Goodrich Field into the future, even if it constructs a new stadium on the high school campus.
Goodrich Field is one of only a few natural-bowl stadiums in Minnesota used for high school athletic competition, according to the city of Anoka. The site’s history as a publicly used facility goes back almost a century to Dec. 31, 1925, when the city purchased the property from the estate of George H. Goodrich for $1 to be used for park and playground purposes. The field has hosted Anoka’s annual Pumpkin Bowl as part of the Halloween festivities since 1948, according to the city, and Anoka High School conducts its annual graduation ceremony on the field.
Speaking during an Aug. 3 City Council meeting, Council Member Mark Freeburg said a lot of emotion and sentiment are wrapped up with Goodrich Field and that it’s important to the community.
“It’s instrumental for the city of Anoka, the business district,” Freeburg said. “The kids grew up wanting to play under the lights in Goodrich Field.”
The rest of the council agreed.
“I think if you asked most Anoka graduates what was one of the unique things about high school, it was Goodrich Field,” Council Member Brian Wesp said.
He said the city gave Goodrich Field to the school district in 1997 with the condition that varsity games would be played there for at least 15 years. That time period has expired, but he believes playing or attending games at Goodrich is “part of the (Anoka) high school experience as a whole.”
Council Member Erik Skogquist said the field is a “selling point” for people living in the neighborhood, and Council Member Elizabeth Barnett said even though she didn’t grow up in Anoka, she lives near the field and enjoys seeing the lights, hearing the announcers and seeing the bustling of kids and parents.
Mayor Phil Rice called sporting events at Goodrich Field “a remarkable experience for students and fans.”
“I think everyone appreciates being part of that history and a part of that fabric and a part of what happens here,” he said.
The City Council unanimously approved a resolution asking the school district not to move events away from Goodrich Field. In addition to referencing the history of the field, the resolution suggested moving events away would hurt Anoka businesses.
In an email to ABC Newspapers district spokesperson James Skelly emphasized no decision has yet been made whether to install synthetic turf at Goodrich or construct a new stadium on the high school campus, “and there will be opportunity for community input from current students and parents, cities served by Anoka High School, and the community at large before any recommendation would be made.”
In the fall of 2019 the School Board voted to install artificial turf on 10 fields in the district. Originally that included four high school stadium fields and Goodrich Field, plus one practice field on each high school campus. The current schedule calls for installation at the stadium fields during the summer of 2021 and the practice fields the following summer, but the district may delay the Anoka High School portion of the project a year to examine the possibility of a stadium field on the Anoka High School campus.
“This district’s interest in the review of a possible on-campus stadium at Anoka High School is in response to concerns raised about the lack of opportunity students have at Anoka compared to other high schools in the district,” Skelly wrote. “Our district stadiums are used much more frequently than for varsity games and most of these opportunities are not available at Anoka due to the almost three-mile distance between the high school and the stadium.”
Skelly also said Anoka-Hennepin is “committed to hosting sporting events at Goodrich Field into the future under any scenario.”