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BY MIKE AVITT
Mount Ayr High School’s first football field was located in Sheldon Heights. I have read that the football team also played at Saville’s (baseball) field but I don’t know where that was located. Chautauqua was held at Sheldon Heights prior to houses being built there beginning in 1913.
In 1923, the Mount Ayr School Board cleared the way for a new athletic field to be constructed just east of the high school building. The new field would accommodate football, baseball, tennis, and track. The funding to pay for the new facility came from the proceeds of previous sports events, not taxes.
In June 1957, voters of the Mount Ayr Independent School District gave the go-ahead on the purchase of a little more than ten acres of land from Doyle Hunter. Work began in the spring of 1958 on a new, modern athletic field. The new football field would be equipped with a 114-foot beacher with a seating capacity of 760. The visitor’s side got a bleacher only 30 foot in length. Of course, this was a portable bleacher that would be removed for baseball and track. The lighting system was 150,000 watt and cost $9,500. Parking was available in a lot to the north of the home bleachers measuring 500 feet long by 75 feet wide.
The dedication was held September 12, 1958 with a talk from Iowa High School Athletic Association executive secretary, Lyle T. Quinn. After the dedication ceremony, the Raiders met the Leon Cardinals, winners of last year’s Blue Grass Conference. Leon won by the score of 13-0. approximately 2,000 fans attended the game.
In 1961, the Blue Grass Conference gave way to the Tall Corn Conference. The new conference was named by Phil Herrington, Bill Warin, Susie Hunt, and Teena Lynch. In August 1963, an all-electric scoreboard was installed at Raider Field.
Mount Ayr’s football field needed to move in 1979 so the new high school could be built on the old field grounds. Work began in the spring of 1979 on a new field east of the old field. Much of this land had been the right-of-way for the Burlington Northern railroad. The new field was built partially with volunteer labor.
The home opener was played against the Villisca Blue Jays on September 14, 1979. Roger Dolecheck scored the first Raider touchdown on the new field and Mount Ayr squeezed by the Blue Jays, 12-6 in overtime. Reynolds caught the winning touchdown from Ted Still and Jeff Woody ran for more than 150 yards in the game.
The field has undergone multiple improvements since 1979. The visitor’s bleachers are longer than 30 feet now so they should be happy.