As a group of dignitaries officially broke ground on a new South Stadium today in the shadow of Hayes Bilingual School (housed in the former Kosciuszko Junior High), it was hard not to look around and think, "if these walls could talk."
A relatively small assemblage of current students, MPS employees, media and government representatives were on hand Thursday morning to capture the moment when ceremonial dirt was turned to signify a new future for the field, which runs along Windlake Avenue and Becher Street.
Built in 1925 to plans drawn by MPS architect Guy Wiley, the stadium's final games were played on the pitch in October 2013. The north stands are especially beautiful stepped structures executed in variegated red brick. Two towers rise in each rear corner and are adorned with cut stone that look like flickering candle flames.
But the north stands have also been condemned for reasons that are clear in one of the photographs above. The walls are literally crumbling.
The wooden doors in the south stands look positively medieval. They're gorgeous. And the place thrums with history.
My mom, her dad and his mom all went to South Division – as did my sister-in-law and her siblings – so I expect at least a bit of family history has played out here. And the same can be said for thousands of Milwaukee families with South Side roots.
A number of the speakers made reference to the past during an event that looks to the future. A former Kosy student and stadium employee and manager, Mike Wenzel, who remembers his earliest days on the field in 1953, said, wistfully, "if these walls could talk," and mentioned the many future NFL stars that played in the stadium.
City-wide school board member Terry Falk spoke of the first kisses shared by Milwaukee teens here across the decades, drawing a playful response from the crowd and smirks from the current students on hand. Ald. Jose Perez said his wife performed as a pom-pom girl at the stadium, though that first kiss, he added, did not occur here.
But time marches on and all things must come to an end.
While the geese still love the turf – they've left their marks everywhere as proof – it's sloped and too narrow for soccer, which has been played there, despite the limitations. The encircling track is in rough shape, too.
A new $9 million field, funded by Qualified School Construction Bonds and designed by American Design, Inc., is expected to be ready by the end of 2014. The stadium will serve as the home field for South Division, Bay View and Bradley Tech High Schools' football and soccer teams.
Demolition of the old stadium, which had a seating capacity of more than 10,000, is estimated to cost $559,163, and should be complete by the end of June. Stop by and see it before it goes.
After this project is completed, MPS will begin replacing Custer Stadium.
ANOTHER WASTE OF MPS FUNDS THAT COULD USED ALOY MORE FRUITEFULLY TO EDUCATE THE NEXT GENERATION. WHAT A JOKE !!!
So many memories of playing and coaching at South Stadium. My last high school soccer game as a player was there (1989 Sectional semifinal vs. West Allis Central), as well as my first varsity win as a coach (1990 girls' regional final, vs. South Division). Our school clinched its third straight trip to the girls' state soccer tournament on that field (1989, vs. Bay View), won a conference championship there (1994 boys, vs. Tech), and lost a sectional final that would have sent our state-ranked girls' team to its fourth straight state tournament at South (1990, vs. Greendale). The good times were many, the sorrows quite few, and I look forward to seeing the next generation of MPS athletes take their place in the annals of the new South Stadium.
Riverside University High School, Class of 1990
RUHS soccer coach, 1990-1994
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