Removing and replacing old bleachers at the Zerger football field sparks nostalgia among community members.
It will look better, it will be safer, but for those in the community with memories made at the Pratt High Zerger Field football stadium, the removal of an older section of visitors’-side bleachers may spark feelings of nostalgia.
This week the old section of bleachers were removed and in days to come, new bleachers matching the already-in-place aluminum seating will be installed. Gone will be the precarious spaces between seat levels, gone will be rusted supports and crumbling wood. Instead, wider, handicapped-accessible ramps will be installed, and future sports fans visiting Greenback events will never know what once was in that space.
Fans and sports teams have come and gone throughout the years but the old bleachers, there since the very beginning, have weathered all sorts of events.
Kim Evert, proud Pratt parent and Greenback supporter, said that she remembers first moving to the Pratt area and driving by the football field wondering what kind of entertainment there might be in Pratt.
Having grown up with six brothers, Evert said she grew up around football and was naturally drawn to the game.
“As we had kids, those bleachers became a part of our weekly schedule,” Evert said. “They hold memories that will last and lend us to the future for new memories too.”
Evert said watching her sons play football through the years have been some of the best memories for her.
“The happiest was to see the first youth football game Drake would play there, the saddest when his classmates carried his football jersey to the coin toss [in memory of his death after a vehicle crash just before his senior season]. His brothers, full of pride, to continue the traditional #2 on the field,” Evert said. “We watched all of this unfold from the bleachers.”
Through wins and losses, preparation for two football state championship wins, years of Relay-for-Life events to raise money for cancer research, homecoming festivities, decades of tradition—and on occasion, injuries and sadness—the bleachers have remained.
When the football field grass was replaced with turf and other features of the stadium were updated over time, the old section of bleachers remained unchanged.
For Don Schwartz, retired USD 382 coach and teacher, the football stadium’s south-side bleachers—and Pratt in general— have held many memories for him since he moved to Pratt in 1966.
Schwartz said that he and several other former coaches and athletes preferred to sit on the south-side of the bleachers so that they could feel free to critique football games as former coaches, jokingly saying, “you don’t have to worry about relatives sitting close by.”
While it is common for everyone to know each other in small towns, Schwartz said that it is a good thing overall because it creates a strong sense of community—and in the bleachers of a football stadium, some of the strongest memories can be made.
“When I retired, I decided I was going to move to West Virginia, but I said, ‘ya know, there are so many great people in Pratt’ so I’m glad I stayed here and retired,” Schwartz said. “It’s a wonderful community.”
The bleachers have seated generations of Greenback fans as parents who once had their glory days, now watch their own kids continue the legacy on Zerger Field.
Balloons have been released for various events, jerseys carried onto the field to honor Greenbacks missing from the game, and future state-champion athletes have trained alongside the bleachers on the track.
Through weather storms and cheering fans, tears and rounds of applause, the bleachers remained in place, bearing the marks, dents and scratches of use through the decades, and now, the time has come to replace the older section of them and make new memories.
“Our bleachers have offered more than a place to sit,” Evert said. “Who would have ever thought so many memories would happen over a course of time.”