Future Looking Brighter for St. Cloud’s Clark Field [GALLERY]
ST. CLOUD -- Once a thriving sports facility bustling with people, St. Cloud’s Clark Field has sat empty since 2015, but that could all change soon.
The former home of the St. Cloud Technical High School football team was closed to varsity in 2012 due to mold and structural concerns. Junior varsity and youth sports continued to use the fields until the St. Cloud Area School District closed it up for good and announced their plans to demolish the site to make way for a new education center.
Community members rallied to save the field and won, with the district electing to build Quarryview Education Center in Waite Park instead. Ruth Kaczor is the president of the Friends of Clark Field group. She says they wanted to prevent the facility from being replaced with just another concrete building.
We formed The Friends of Clark Field to work very, very, very hard to protect Clark Field and keep it green space - whatever it would become -something that our community could keep and use for years to come.
Kaczor’s husband Ron worked as a sixth-grade teacher at Oak Hill Elementary School and served as the head football coach at Tech from 1996 until his death in 2006 due to cancer. Their children played sports on the field, and she has helped maintain the grounds for a number of years.
Following a COVID-19 related hiatus, the Friends of Clark Field recently got back to work just in time for some big news. St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis announced in his State of the City Address earlier this month, that the city intends to acquire Clark Field from the district and turn it into St. Cloud's 97th park.
The announcement comes after the district and the city completed the sale of the former Tech building which is set to be remodeled into the new city hall. Kaczor says they are looking forward to working with the city to reinvigorate and preserve Clark Field.
Now it feels like there's an opportunity to really work with the city and be willing to help. We have a really large task force, so we just want to bring that all together as a community to help make this something that is an asset to our children, our families, people who live here, people who live outside of here - all of our community.
There have also been preliminary conversations surrounding getting the site a designation in the National Register of Historic Places. Clark Field was built in 1942 as a Works Progress Administration project to put people back to work following the Great Depression.
The WPA was created in 1935 under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Second New Deal and dissolved in 1943. Other WPA projects in St. Cloud include the James. J. Hill statue by Lake George, the First Avenue wall on the campus of St. Cloud State University, and Selke Field on the east side of town.
There is currently no timeline for the sale of Clark Field, but according to Kleis, the transfer could happen sometime in 2021. In the meantime, the district is addressing several safety concerns with the intention of leasing out the field to community groups. Kaczor says she hopes to see people using the field safely again this summer.
I know the school district has the goal of leasing this to people over the summer which we think is fabulous. We want it to be used, but it has to be safe for people to use it, so that's what we're working on now.
Gary Ganje is the Executive Director of Operations for the St. Cloud Area School District. He says broken windows in the press box have been cleaned up and replaced and a time has been scheduled for a contractor to come out and repair the damage done to some of the granite blocks in the south wall by a car crash over the winter.
Executive Director of Community Education Adam Holm says community members will then be able to submit rental applications through the district’s facility rental team to use Clark Field for various events.
Clark Field was named in honor of Elizabeth Clark who served as the principal of St. Cloud Public High School from 1911 until 1917. She then became the first principal at St. Cloud Technical High School from when it opened in 1917 until her retirement in 1947.
A woman ahead of her time, Clark received her Bachelor’s of Arts Degree from Yankton College, a now-defunct liberal arts college in South Dakota. Clark died in 1966 at the age of 85.