April 29, 1997
Before Perry Stadium was completed in 1939 as a WPA project, our high school football team and semi-pro baseball team had the rudest of accommodations. We didn't think it was so bad at the time, but the wooden grandstand at Fairgrounds Park looked out onto a rock-infested field laced with prickly sand burrs, bits of broken glass, little or no grass cover, and the normal residue that accumulates in the soil as the result of rodeos and stock shows on the premises. We called it "the Dust Bowl."
The "park," which surely was a euphemistic designation, filled a major portion of the Noble county fairgrounds, sharing the space with a very large two-story brick exhibition building where everything from home-canned pickles to premium sheep, cattle and pigs were on display each September. All these structures were on the site of the present fairgrounds in east Perry where modern buildings have replaced those earlier facilities. The Fairgrounds Park grandstand was situated north and west of the present main exhibition building. At the time, Perry's two National Guard units also used the exhibition building as an armory. One guard outfit was a horse-drawn Field Artillery battery and the other was a regimental band.
When the Works Projects Administration (WPA) came along during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Perry civic leaders succeeded in getting a new armory constructed out on Fourteenth Street and in 1939 the present Perry Stadium was built on the north side of town with the help of the federal agency. Now, some 58 years later, efforts are being made to upgrade and improve the stadium to ready it for the 21st century. Portions of a school bond issue approved by district voters last fall will make that possible.
Before Fairgrounds Park, PHS football teams played their games on a flat area east of the Santa Fe Railroad tracks north of Fir avenue. The source of that information was the late Dr. A. M, Crowder, Perry dentist, who compiles an informal history of such things based on his personal involvement and recollections from the early decades of this century. Dr. Crowder wrote that the football field was moved to the track side location in 1927. Other sources indicate the Maroons previously played their games on a field at the foot of a hill that leads to the present-day CCC Park, southeast of town.
Dr. Crowder wrote that members of the newly formed Perry Rotary Club and Lions Club met at 8 a.m. one Saturday at the trackside football field and were joined by some clerks and other civic-minded men. Posts were set and connected with sections of 2"x4" lumber and by nightfall a fence had been completed around the field to define the boundaries. That served the purpose for several years until the Fairgrounds Park was offered by county commissioners for use of the high school football team and the Perry Merchants semi-pro baseball team.
Since the stadium was built in 1939, the baseball portion has become unusable for that purpose because of structural faults, a natural deterioration process that made the 12-foot tall exterior walls potentially dangerous. The football area, now named Daniels Field in honor of the legendary Coach Harold (Hump) Daniels, is in better shape but still in need of major repairs.
A track was added around the football field several years ago. It is a first-class running path, one of the best surfaces in this part of the state. That is fitting because when the stadium was built in 1939 it was widely acclaimed as the premier facility of its kind in north-central Oklahoma. Its sturdy design with native sand stone from local quarries included graceful arches, ticket office, rest rooms, a concession area, solid spectator area with 3"x12" plank seats, soaring light towers and other features which were lacking at most high school football fields in this area. Through the years many of those qualities have become shopworn or outdated, but the architectural integrity remains. Unfortunately, from an aesthetic point of view, a portion of the west wall was removed several years ago to accommodate a new combination dressing room and wrestling workout room but engineers had advised school officials that mayor renovation would be required to save that portion of the wall.
A visiting Main Street evaluation team spent some time in Perry last month examining our good features along with the bad. The three-member team was excited about several things, one of them being the stadium. It is worth preserving and maintaining, they told city leaders, because it is an excellent basic structure. Many larger schools would be happy to have it. City officials and school authorities are determined to preserve the stadium while ensuring the safety of its users.
We are fortunate to have this historic stadium in our city. It stands as a tribute to the foresight of this community's leaders back in the time of the Great Depression when they saw to it that such a facility would be erected here. The baseball park at Perry Stadium is perhaps gone forever, but Daniels Field continues to be a focus of interest and pride for folks in this city today and we need to guarantee that it continues to serve our needs.