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A rendering of the entrace of Jim Gustafson Field is pictured above. -- Submitted

Naming game

Published 6:30pm Sunday, April 1, 2012

As Albert Lea football continues to rebuild its program, the field it plays on might be renamed after the greatest to ever coach the team.

The Albert Lea school board on March 19 gave tentative approval for fundraising purposes to a committee working to rename Hammer Field  as Jim Gustafson Field.

Gustafson began coaching the Tigers in 1956 and led Albert Lea to five Big Nine Conferene championships and three state titles between 1968-1971. Gustafson, who was an inagural member of the Albert Lea Athletic Hall of Fame, coached the Tigers to 101 victories during his career.

The Jim Gustafson Field committee is working to raise funds to build a brick wall at the entrance of the stadium. The group also plans to build a granite sign above the ticket booth and a wall of recognition, listing the names of those who donated or assisted with the project.

The renaming and dedication of Jim Gustafson Field, if approved, is slated for Aug. 30, during halftime of the Tigers’ game against Waseca.

In addition to raising funds for new infrastructure, the committee has a goal of establishing a Jim Gustafson endowment fund, which will support athletics by reducing participation fees and assisting in facility repair and maintenance. The fund is to be managed by the Albert Lea Education Association.

The project is being funded by minimum pledges of $300 by Gustafson’s former team members and friends and ALHS alumni to secure a brick at the field’s entrance. Pledge forms were sent to as many former Tigers football players who played from 1951 to 2006 as the committee could locate. There is a five-year waiting period for former players and alumni to have a brick so next year graduates of 2007 will be eligible.

The pledge drive will be kicked off on April 20 at 6 p.m. with a dinner and roast of Gustafson at Wedgewood Cove Golf Club. Tickets cost $20 and if you would like to be mailed more information and a ticket request call Teresa Nolander at 377-9682 or email teresa@marketingplusmn.com. Reservations must be made by April 12.