Home at Last: Our Stadium Story
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The doors to Apple Valley have been open for 40 years; however the gates have not been. More specifically, the gates to the stadium haven’t been. For many who are not older or aren’t familiar with our school’s history, Apple Valley’s stadium was built in 1999. To put this into perspective, the stadium is younger than the youngest high school in the district–and our crosstown rival–Eastview.
So what did Apple Valley do prior to the stadium’s inception? Where were home events held?
The answer: Rosemount High School. Rosemount–the first high school in District 196–opened up in 1918, decades before Apple Valley. Events that were considered “home” events were at Rosemount.
“It was just something we got used to,” said former Apple Valley High School head football coach Mike Fritze, who now is head coach at Minnesota Crookston.
Even though they were used to playing home games at Rosemount, it wasn’t easy.“The toughest games were the ones with Rosemount when we were supposed to be the home team,” said Fritze. “It was like a home game for them.”
After enduring 23 years without having a true home field, the call was answered. “After Eastview opened and had a stadium, we ended up with one too; it had to happen,” said current Apple Valley High School principal Steve Degenaar.
“I think we became whole… The stadium was a missing piece for a big suburban high school,” said Degenaar. “We were one of the only suburban schools that travelled to another school for home games.”
After being built, the stadium transformed Apple Valley into a community. It allowed people to come together and pack the home stands instead of having to travel to foreign bleachers.
Jeff Groves, long time Apple Valley sports statistician and announcer, shared his take on it: “ It gives you a sense of belonging to have your own field and it allows us to have actual home games. The one sport that unifies the whole community is football.”
This unity showed at the first home game in the new stadium, a sellout against Chaska where the Eagles showcased their new home field advantage with a 42-0 blowout victory.
“It became ‘the thing to do on a Friday night’ in the fall,” said Fritze. “Many people with no ties to the school would attend games [here].”
However, the scope of the stadium includes more than just football. Many events are also held in the stadium: marching band, lacrosse, track and field, and graduation. (Note: despite being open 17 years, graduation has only happened twice outside. Degenaar believes that we’re due for a perfect day this year.) Even in the summer, there are those that utilize the track. This great addition only gets an offseason in the winter, when snow renders it unusable.
Having a stadium built at Apple Valley has shaped our school’s history tremendously in recent years and will continue to shape it in future years to come.
“It has definitely given us an identity,” said Groves.