Thursday, March 26, 2009

A fence for Hackley Field

Today we feature a little history on historic Hackley Field - Home of the Muskegon Big Reds since 1907. Of course, they weren't yet known as the "Big Reds" during those early years. The nickname would come later.

The field itself was yet another donation given by the city's greatest benefactor, Charles Hackley. Purchased, then donated to the Board of Education in 1902. Hackley expressed his wishes that the property be used for an athletic field and playground for use by the school.

It took four years before the property was cleared of trees. An early design featured a football field of only 50 yards, with four tennis courts placed in each corner of the property. However in 1906, Muskegon hired a new director of the Hackley gymnasium. Noting that the football field, as designed would be approximately half regulation size, the new director, Bob Zuppke, who would also serve as the football and track coach presented a design that featured a full-size field with three tennis courts located at one end of the property. The layout also included a 1/5 mile cinder track that would circle the field, and a grandstand and dressing room complex on one side of the field. The center of the gridiron would also support a baseball diamond. Zuppke would later go on to fame at the University of Illinois, leading the Illini to four national football titles and coaching Illini greats like Red Grange and George Halas.

The school board accepted Zuppke's drawings. While the tennis courts and dressing rooms were never built, spectator stands were constructed on the site and the facility was ready for it's first year of use in the fall of 1907.

The site has seen many other additions and alterations over the years. One feature removed in the 1940s was a handsome brick fence that surrounded the property.

Check out this article from the June 13, 1911 Muskegon Daily Chronicle, as well as this drawing from the July 10, 1911 edition (Click on the images for an enlarged version.)

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