Editorial: All of a sudden, city gets a new national attraction
Op-Ed · November 02, 2012

We know football reigns in West Branch sports, and now MaxPreps earlier this month turned the Little Rose Bowl into a national attraction.

MaxPreps named the Oliphant Street football field among “10 More High School Football Stadiums to See Before You Die.”

The “more” refers to another list the CBS Sports subsidiary put out in August. Both lists were built after the online writers scoured the Internet looking at YouTube videos, following up recommendations, pulling from their own experiences and sifting through stories and photographs. West Branch’s 91-year-old stadium, shoveled out by manual labor and horses and mules, is the only Iowa football field to make either list.

The City of West Branch and Main Street West Branch would do well to add this football stadium to their list of city attractions, which would attract a different demographic than those drawn to the Hoover Complex, Brick Arch Winery or the trails. Perhaps a new blue sign on Interstate 80?

When you flip through the other stadiums that earned this new status, one thing you will notice many of them share is their enormous size, high-end architecture or overall majesty — some clearly were built with deep pockets in the background.

By comparison, the Little Rose Bowl looks, well, little.

But that’s only when you look at them empty.

While West Branch football crowds cannot match the seating capacity of most of these other stadiums, players throughout the generations frequently reflect on the awesome feeling that comes from standing on the field, surrounded by fans filling the seats and lining the hills, the booming music over the speaker system, and the shine of the Friday Night Lights.

The scoreboard donated by the Bob Kessler estate which flashes player’s pictures; the Little Rose Bowl sign, donated by the Sandra Gates family, which players pass under at the northwest corner; and the Tradition Stone placed by the Wayne Rummells family. And how many man-hours went into building the press box-and-concession stand? Last year, the school even replaced the visitor seating area, even though most of those in attendance on both sides don’t use the bleachers.

Many elderly or handicapped folks nose up to the guardrails surrounding three sides of the field to watch the games from their cars. And, from time to time, officials have to stop the game when someone turns on their headlights.

The Oliphant Street field has, over the years, seen a lot of changes and additions, many of which were donated by fans, former players or coaches, or family of the football program.

But the field has been the backdrop to much more than football. Hoover Elementary and West Branch Middle School often use it for gym class. The middle school also uses it for football. Homecoming parades start and stop around the stadium, then serve as the main stage for the coronation ceremony.

It’s not the size of the stadium, or that there’s anything ostentatiously fancy. But it is a unique field with its bowl shape, and all those individual human touches — as opposed to coming from a single architectural drawing — are what Head Coach Butch Pedersen aptly called a piece of Americana.

But the stadium is much more memorable when you add the people, blast the music, fire up the grill, pop the popcorn, turn on the lights and blow the whistle to wake up the Sacred Acre.

It’s the game, the part-natural, part-manmade stadium and the atmosphere that surrounds it all.

We know it as West Branch football, all wrapped in one big package that excites the senses and brings the community together for one of the greatest pastimes of autumn.

Congratulations to West Branch Community Schools and the Bears football family that have all contributed to a classic stadium that today now has national recognition. We are most proud.

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