May 2, 1997
As December arrived and 1938 drew to a close, work had been started by the Works Project Administration (WPA) on the Perry Stadium job with an estimated total cost of $45,000. John Mildfelt, local building contractor, was named construction superintendent.
The community was hoping for completion in time for opening of the baseball season in the spring of 1939, but that proved wildly optimistic. The semi-pro Perry Merchants baseball team had to play all of their home games at the Fairgrounds Park that year. Work on the stadium was delayed for a variety of reasons and summer was gone with a completion date still uncertain. Hopes rebounded early in September when Mildfelt announced a work order had been issued for 58 men and a full-scale resumption of the job was to begin on September 13.
Although important details, such as seats for spectators, had not been completed, the stadium was informally opened on September 22, 1939, when the first "official" high school football game was played there. The combatants were the PHS Maroons of Coach Harold (Hump) Daniels and the Billings high school Bulldogs. Perry won, 54-0. It was the Maroons' second game of the season. Years later, the football area would be named in Coach Daniels' honor as a tribute to his 35 years in the local school system.
How much did the stadium cost? Depends on your source of information. A news story in The Perry Daily Journal on September 23, 1939, described the stadium as an $85,000 project. A feature story in the same issue called it "a $100,000 plant." Translating that to today's dollars would be difficult, but we know it would be substantially higher.
On September 28, it was announced that "final and positive approval" of the stadium construction job had been issued by the district WPA office in Enid. The announcement was made by Mayor Jim Abel, who had been elected to succeed Fred Kretsch in the city's top office since the project began.
This completes the sage of the building and various renovation efforts at Perry stadium since far-sighted civic workers obtained federal assistance for its construction in the depths of the 1930s depression era. Along with numerous memories of athletic derring-do and other celebrations, the stadium complex remains one of this city's proudest possessions. The current effort to restore some of its luster is laudable, and certainly none too soon. Thanks to all who have made it possible to maintain this Perry institution.