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Stadium

HOME AT LAST!

Will Rogers High School played its first true home game in its 81-year history on Sept. 24, 2020, against East Central. It was originally scheduled for Sept. 11 against Hale, but delayed due to a COVID-19 outbreak among the visitors. Here are several images of the event followed by links to the media coverage.

Will Rogers High School football players run through a ribbon during a ceremony at their new stadium on Thursday night. The Ropers faced East Central in their first game at their new home. JOHN CLANTON, TULSA WORLD

Will Rogers fans watch as the first game at the new Will Rogers Stadium begins in Tulsa on Thursday, September 24, 2020. The opening game at the stadium featured the Will Rogers Ropers against the East Central Cardinals. JOHN CLANTON, TULSA WORLD

Will Rogers High School band plays on the sidelines at the new Will Rogers Stadium in Tulsa on Thursday, September 24, 2020. The opening game at the stadium featured the Will Rogers Ropers against the East Central Cardinals. JOHN CLANTON, TULSA WORLD

Tuba player Bryan Hill, a junior at Will Rogers High School plays with the band on the sidelines at the new Will Rogers Stadium in Tulsa on Thursday, September 24, 2020. The opening game at the stadium featured the Will Rogers Ropers against the East Central Cardinals. JOHN CLANTON, TULSA WORLD

Players walk to the sideline during a timeout as the new scoreboard at Will Rogers Stadium glows behind them in Tulsa on Thursday, September 24, 2020. The opening game at the new stadium featured the Will Rogers Ropers against the East Central Cardinals. JOHN CLANTON, TULSA WORLD

Oklahoma Senator Dave Rader, a Will Rogers High School graduate, flips the coin as the first game at the new Will Rogers Stadium is about to begin in Tulsa on Thursday, September 24, 2020. The opening game at the stadium featured the Will Rogers Ropers against the East Central Cardinals. JOHN CLANTON, TULSA WORLD

Will Rogers' Gerald Crooms pulls East Central's William McGuire just before he scores a touchdown during the first game at the new Will Rogers Stadium in Tulsa on September 24, 2020. JOHN CLANTON, TULSA WORLD

Will Rogers Head Coach Parker Childers coaches his team against the East Central Cardinals during the first game at the new Will Rogers Stadium in Tulsa on September 24, 2020. JOHN CLANTON, TULSA WORLD

Tulsa Public Schools Athletic Director Gil Cloud smiles as he addresses a crowd during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Will Rogers Stadium in Tulsa on Thursday, September 24, 2020. The opening game at the stadium featured the Will Rogers Ropers against the East Central Cardinals. JOHN CLANTON, TULSA WORLD

TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist speaks during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Will Rogers Stadium in Tulsa on Thursday, September 24, 2020. The opening game at the stadium featured the Will Rogers Ropers against the East Central Cardinals. JOHN CLANTON, TULSA WORLD

The Color Guard walks in front of the new stands and Press Box during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Will Rogers Stadium in Tulsa on Thursday, September 24, 2020. The opening game at the stadium featured the Will Rogers Ropers against the East Central Cardinals. JOHN CLANTON, TULSA WORLD


The sun sets on the new Will Rogers Stadium in Tulsa on Thursday, September 24, 2020. (Two photos) The opening game at the stadium featured the Will Rogers Ropers against the East Central Cardinals. JOHN CLANTON, TULSA WORLD

Here are links to additional news coverage of the stadium dedication.

https://tulsaworld.com/sports/photo/gallery-will-rogers-opens-new-football-stadium/collection_ef64a3b4-fee5-11ea-b617-4747834c48fe.html#1

https://tulsaworld.com/sports/high-school/bill-haisten-pain-free-gil-cloud-savors-a-new-rogers-stadium-and-more-tps-football/article_e777699c-fea0-11ea-81cd-5b78a7f5e4dc.html

https://www.newson6.com/story/5f6d543f9a57001c85e4b153/will-rogers-high-school-dedicates-new-multipurpose-stadium-

https://www.kjrh.com/news/local-news/will-rogers-high-school-opens-its-first-stadium

https://ktul.com/news/local/will-rogers-high-school-makes-history-celebrates-opening-of-its-first-stadium

https://www.fox23.com/news/local/photos-celebration/6UZEEUAB5BAW3IDGE35KHRDXDA/

Be sure to watch the drone video presentation of the stadium at this link.

https://tulsaworld.com/video/sports/drone-video-of-will-rogers-first-football-stadium-the-stadium-is-part-of-a-415/video_14c4964d-11a4-5150-9da8-bf6560313466.html

Skelly Stadium was actually home stadium for several TPS high schools. 

Built in the first year of the Great Depression with the first game played on Oct. 4, 1930. In 1938, with financial issues caused by the Great Depression always present, TU traded Skelly Field to Tulsa Public Schools for the downtown Philtower building and began to lease the stadium from TPS. The stadium was home not just to nearby Will Rogers (which opened in 1939) but also to Central and Webster (which opened in 1938), and later to Edison in the late '50s, so the Ropers played many of their games at Skelly, including some as visitors. An additional 5,000 seats in the north end zone were added in 1947, and the name was changed to Skelly Stadium. With Tulsa football undergoing a revival in 1964, plans to expand the 20,000 seat stadium to 40,235 were made. TU was to get back Skelly Stadium from TPS in exchange for building high school football stadiums at LaFortune Park, adjacent to Memorial High School, and McLain High School. TU officially got Skelly Stadium back in 1968. (Recalled by Dick Risk, Class of '59, with assistance from Tulsa World archives.)

Getting a stadium for Will Rogers was a long process thanks to the perseverance of Bob LaBass, Gil Cloud and then-Superintent Dr. Keith Ballard.

Bob LaBass, an alumnus of Will Rogers, headed the Bond Projects office of Tulsa Public Schools. He was active with the Will Rogers High School Community Foundation as an advisor from the time I formed it in 2010. Employees of the school district are prohibited by law from serving as voting directors of school foundations. I used to ask him every time I saw him, "Bob, when will we get a stadium for Will Rogers." His response was always, "when I grow hair on top of my head. Dr. Ballard, then superintendent of schools, accepted our invitation to speak at the 2013 induction of the Will Rogers High School Hall of Fame selectees. The school had just been transformed into a college preparatory model, with on-campus courses through Tulsa Community College for dual high school and college credit as part of "Project School House," which dealt with a surplus of real property. Will Rogers had been considered for the auction block. Dave Rader, legendary Roper quarterback, TU quarterback and 11-year head coach, had met him in the parking lot and did some lobbying on the way to the auditorium about the need for a stadium. We made him an "Honorary Roper." Dr. Ballard used this opportunity to assure the audience that he would take care of Will Rogers.

On April 11, 2014,I was in Dr. Ballard's office on another matter when we were joined by Bob LaBass and Stacey (nee Vernon) Vincent, former principal of Will Rogers. Bob was carrying architects' renderings on poster board of the school bond package that would be submitted to the voters on March 3, 2015, nearly a year away. Keith was elated to show these drawings to me. (I imagined Bob with a head of hair as he was holding up the renderings.) The original concept was different than the final version, driven somewhat by budget considerations when the price of materials was affected by U.S. tariffs, causing elimination of bleachers on the west side of the field, according to TPS athletic director Gil Cloud, another Will Rogers alumnus. The original plan included a natatorium (an enclosed swimming pool that was to be suitable for swim meets) that would be built in adjacent Turner Park (and shared with the community during summers) and a girls' softball field. (Recalled by Dick Risk, Class of '59)

Oklahoma Senator Dave Rader, Class of 1975, was a star quarterback for the Ropers. Future NFL Hall of Famer Steve Largent, then a member of the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, was sent to get Rader to sign with TU. He set records as quarterback. Dave played in the NFL for the New York Giants, but had a more impressive career as a collegiate coach, including 11 years as head coach of his alma mater.

https://youtu.be/ulnYf5J4pYw

 

John Henry Ward, Class of 1966, was a three-sport athlete, excelling in baaseball, wrestling and football for the Ropers. He was named All-State in football and was undefeated state champion in wrestling. He played football and wrestled at OSU, where he was named All-American in both sports. He was a first-round draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings and played in the Super Bowl twice. He later played for the Chicago Bears and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

https://youtu.be/ff8r1YeYhZo

Let us not forget the late Don "Babe" Chandler, Class of 1952, legendary kicker for the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers. Winner of the first two Super Bowls plus NFL championships with both teams before the Super Bowl was created. He excelled in football, basketball and baseball at Will Rogers, including quarterback for the city champion Ropers.

https://youtu.be/WSivYqNRnVo

 

This Tulsa World article is dated Nov. 8, 2019

The Ropers snapped a 43-game losing streak on Oct. 23, 2020, against Durant. Here is a video of the final few minutes.

https://livestream.com/klbctv/events/9365947/videos/212496196

 

The bench and brick projects were spearheaded by Jo Anne Lewis, Class of 1955, past president of the Will Rogers High School Community Foundation, which sponsored both projects. Several classes, such as the Class of 1959 shown above, purchased benches that are being placed in various locations on the campus. The bricks have been installed on the walkway from the school building to the stadium. (Brick photos courtesy Class of 1958.) Opportunities to participate in these two projects are closed. Your opportunity to support the work of the foundation is never closed (see immediately above).