Jun 26, 2012 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterYesterday it was a special place, where young Riverton kids aspired to their athletic dreams and our community gathered to cheer them on.
Today, the grass there is a beautiful summer green, watered and coaxed to grow as if it were being prepared to host another generation of Wolverine gridders.
Tomorrow, Tonkin Staduim's future is in question, and Riverton school superintendent Terry Snyder is looking for ideas.
That may be a difficult challenge.
Snyder is just now moving forward with exploring future options for the stadium that was used for Wolverine football since 1937.
"I need to make some contacts and see if there is interest in the community. We have continued to care for the field... We saw that we needed to do that rather than let the field deteriorate and then somebody have an interest. Then it would be a lot more expensive, and we would be in a difficult situation," Snyder said.
The school district is open to hearing any and all options and will consider any proposal. So far, no community group has stepped forward with ideas for either leasing or purchasing the field.
An obvious idea is whether the stadium could be used by the Riverton Junior Football League which has made a nice home its activities just north of the Babe Ruth Park near the Riverton Middle School.
Currently, the RJFL has equipment storage, a concession stand, and restroom facilities, and a move by that league would require capital investment at Tonkin. The group uses the grass in the outfield of the Babe Ruth Park for its "ultimate" league for younger players and some overflow for tournament games. The RJFL currently has more grass available for its use than it would at Tonkin, and the city mows, fertilizes and waters the RJFL field.
Another group has tossed the idea of creating stadium tennis with six or more courts on what is now the football field. The new courts in the bowl would be nicely protected from the weather. Again, that good idea would also require a solid funding source.
During the final weeks leading up to what was the last game at the great old stadium last fall, a group brought forward the idea of using the stadium and adjacent gymnasium and building for a sort of community recreation or convention complex, although it seems that idea has not been cultivated with any sustaining enthusiasm by those who thought of it.
A good question to ask is how long do we want the school district to maintain Tonkin Stadium? If there are no immediate takers, and in light of schools' ongoing budget concerns, do we want our school district to continue spending resources to maintain the grounds?
Conversely, wouldn't it be sad if the stadium becomes our city's biggest hidden weed patch? Nobody is advocating for that -- yet.
The future of Tonkin Stadium is now one of our community's biggest challenges, and now is the time to bring all ideas forward.
The clock hasn't struck midnight, but it is ticking.
The argument of whether Riverton High School should have moved football from Tonkin Stadium is over. It is now up to us to see whether the legacy of Tonkin will continue or, literally, die.
Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!
Get your copy of The Ranger online, every day! If you are a current print subscriber and want to also access dailyranger.com online (there is nothing more to purchase) including being able to download The Mining and Energy Edition, click here. Looking to start a new online subscription to dailyranger.com (even if it is for just one day)? Access our secure SSL encrypted server and start your subscription now by clicking here.