When Wartburg played at the Fairground

            The Knights have had three homes in Waverly for football games. The current stadium, Walston-Hoover Stadium at Zimmerman Field, was constructed in 2001 on the site of the Schield Stadium, Wartburg College’s first on-campus stadium built in 1957.

            It was thought that the home opener of the 2001 season was the first night game hosted in Waverly by Wartburg, but that is not true. What follows was written for the Sept. 6, 2003, football program edited by then Sports Information Director, Mark Adkins (’90).

***
            Long before the opening of Walston-Hoover Stadium in 2001 (N.B. later named Walston-Hoover Stadium at Zimmerman Field in 2013), the Knights were playing under the lights at the Bremer County Fairgrounds in southwest Waverly.  

            “It was a beautiful location for a game,” recalls retired sports information director Duane Schroeder, who covered games at the Fairgrounds as a student. “There was a horse racing track going around the field. At the time, it was the best spot in the conference for football.”

            And it had lights.

            “Every field in the Iowa Conference (N.B. now the American Rivers Conference) had lights,” said Schroeder. Today (2003) Wartburg, Luther, and Simpson are the only Iowa Conference schools with lighted football field, and Iowa Conference games are played on Saturday afternoons unless both teams agree to an evening game.

            The Knights started playing at the Fairgrounds in 1935, the year the college settled permanently in Waverly. When Schroeder arrived as a first-year student in 1954, he began what would be 46 years of covering Wartburg football (he finished working in the Press Box in one capacity of another after 49 years).

            “Norm Fintel, a past public relations director for the college, called me into his office the day before a game in 1954,” he said. “He took the NCAA statistics book, handed it over and said “Learn this before tomorrow night. You’re keeping statistics.”

            “From the statistical side, it was a challenge,” Schroeder said of the Fairgrounds location. “There was no press box, so you had to keep stats [on] the sideline, and there were no hash marks. Once the ball went up on a punt, you didn’t have much time to spot where it was returned, which made the stat-keeping tough kicking and punting.”

            Wartburg football moved on campus during Schroeder’s senior year with the opening of Schield Stadium in 1957. The facilities were much improved, but the lights didn’t return until 2001, when the Knights hosted Wartburg’s first on-campus night game against the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh.


            One final note, there is, in some sense, a fourth Waverly home for the Knights. On Nov. 11, 2000, Wartburg played a home game against the Loras Duhawks at Go-Hawk Stadium on the campus of Waverly-Shell Rock High School. In order to have Walston-Hoover Stadium at Zimmerman Field finished in time for the 2001 opener, construction crews started demolition of the old Schield Stadium grandstand and bleachers that week.

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THE TUNNEL — The Knights run on their their former home field at the Bremer County Fairgrounds in 1956. It was a traditional practice for the first-year class to form a tunnel for the players prior to each home game. (PHOTO: Mary Ellen Schroeder)

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