Playing football on the upper field

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 15, 2001

For 16 years football games in Albert Lea were played on a field named for a Presbyterian pastor and college president – the Rev.

Saturday, September 15, 2001

For 16 years football games in Albert Lea were played on a field named for a Presbyterian pastor and college president – the Rev. Russell B. Abbott. And how this came about is based on the city’s sports and educational histories.

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In reality, the location of Abbott Athletic Field was the second of three places since 1926 where the Albert Lea High School Tigers and Bengals (the B team) played their home football games, The location of two of these playing and practicing fields was in a part of the city which has always had a strong connection with education.

From 1885 to 1916 this area along what was once North Pearl Street, and renamed Abbott Street about 1909, was the location of the Albert Lea College for Women. Abbott was the college president, plus the first installed pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in 1869.

After the college ceased operations, one of the buildings named the Cargill Science Hall was eventually acquired by the school district. The name was changed to Abbott Elementary School in either 1921 or 1922. (This building is now the Abbott Apartments.)

The former campus area across the street was also acquired by the school district and gradually converted into a large playground.

According to local historian, Bidney Bergie, the west end of the former college campus was converted into a football field in 1926. This particular place facing Winter Avenue could be considered as the lower field. On the east side a slope provided natural stadium-like seating for the spectators. The lower field served as a playground and recreational area after the end of football season.

In 1950 the school board approved the expenditure of $70,000 for the creation of a new Abbott Athletic Field on the upper portion of the former college campus. The site was partly where the main college building was once located and closer to the intersection of Abbott Street, Lakeview Boulevard and Vine Avenue. Bleacher seating was provided for about 2,000 people. Eight 70-foot-high light poles supplied the illumination for night games.

This new football field was dedicated on the evening of Sept. 29, 1950. Superintendent of Schools J. John Halverson and Charles Upin, president of the Albert Lea Board of Education were the main speakers at halftime.

One of the most unusual aspects of this first game on the upper field was based on the Albert Lea High School Band directed by L. J. &uot;Cap&uot; Emmons. The Tribune had reported that this band would be appearing in their brand new uniforms. Yet, on a somewhat rainy evening the marching musicians presented a pregame program in their old uniforms. Then, as the rain ceased falling, the band left the field’s bleachers during the first half. They came back just in time for the dedication and halftime program wearing their new uniforms.

The football game that first evening at the new field was between the Tigers and Mankato High School with the visitors winning with a final score of 14-6.

Inside both the front and back covers of the 1967 Tiger Yearbook are double-page aerial photos of Abbott Athletic Field and the neighborhood. This was a nostalgic view of the field and track which was being replaced that fall by the even newer Hammer Field.

Thus, the place where the Tigers played their home football games for 16 years became the site for Lakeview Elementary School.