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It’s time to let go of Lakeview, Hedgcock, Memorial Field at NMU

February 12, 2012
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor (mwellens@miningjournal.net) , The Mining Journal

It can be tough to let go of the past, whether it be your first car, an ex-girlfriend or in my case, the 1996 World Series when the Braves blew a 2-0 lead against the New York Yankees going home to Atlanta for three games.

I'll never get over that one. Cars and girlfriends come and go, but how often can your baseball team win two in the Bronx, then get three games at home to finish off a title?

Fans in the Upper Peninsula seem to have their own version of the '96 series in Lakeview Arena, Memorial Field and Hedgcock Fieldhouse.

Article Photos

MATT WELLENS

You just can't let them go, can you?

All three venues were great in their prime as home to Northern Michigan University's four national championship teams - football in 1975, hockey in 1991 and volleyball in 1993 and 1994.

However, by the time the 90's rolled around, these ancient venues were well beyond their prime. To compete for casual fans, corporate sponsors, quality coaches and elite athletes, the Wildcat athletic programs needed new digs.

Fact Box

On the Air:

Mining Journal Sports Editor Matt Wellens joins former Journal Sports Writer and longtime Marquette resident Kurt Mensching, NMU President Les Wong and ESPN 970's Casey Ford in a special round table discussing Wildcat athletics facilities on "The Sportpen" from 4-5 p.m. Monday on 970 AM and online at www.espn970.com.

Businesses want suites to entertain clients and the university needs more than a bleacher to schmooze with donors.

Casual fans want clean bathrooms, ample parking, nice concession stands, a comfortable seat and even at a hockey rink, they would like some heat - something Lakeview still struggles with today.

These things may not appeal to the hardcore Yooper sports fan, who considered Lakeview, Hedgcock and Memorial Field to be palaces after sitting in his deer blind or ice shanty all day.

For Toivo and Eino, there's nothing better than sipping on a cup of hot chocolate at Lakeview Arena.

Football is best bundled up in the bleachers of Memorial Field on a snowy afternoon.

As for basketball and volleyball, who needs a comfortable seat when you're standing and cheering your heart out all game?

As a Green Bay Packers' fan who has sat through many freezers at Lambeau Field, I'm with you, Toivo and Eino.

Unfortunately, John, his wife Jane, and their kids Billy and Sally, don't agree with us and there's a lot more of them than us. They also have a few more bucks to spend.

John, Jane, Sally and Billy want to go to a football game and know they won't get rained on. They want to sit and eat some Jilbert's ice cream while watching hockey.

Athletes want state-of-the-art exercise equipment to stay in tip-top shape. They want a clean, comfortable locker room not only to dress in, but to watch film, get treatment and socialize.

Memorial Field may have been great for Steve Mariucci in the 70s, but to get an athlete of that caliber these days like a Carter Kopach, programs need a facility that separates itself from a high school facility. The Superior Dome does that.

Lakeview Arena was just right for Dallas Drake in the late 80's, but in order for NMU to sign another NHL product like Mike Santorelli, the 'Cats needed the Berry Events Center.

This may be hard to believe - because I can't stand the BEC as a basketball facility, either - but the separate practice facility and chance to play in front of 4,000 fans is the reason Haki Stampley is playing for Northern.

With some proper renovations and organization, I think Stampley can accomplish that if NMU men's head basketball coach Doug Lewis can get more pieces around him.

NMU athletes, coaches and administrators all have fond memories of Lakeview, Hedgcock and Memorial Field. However, you won't find anyone jumping in a time machine to bring those facilities back into the fold.

Lakeview Arena is a great place for the Electricians, Redmen and other youth hockey teams in Marquette, but it will never be home to NMU hockey again.

Hedgcock is now an administrative building - a darn nice one, in fact. It will never host hardwood and hoops again.

As for Memorial Field, good luck trying to find it under the BEC.

Let us never forget their memory and the good times that were had in those facilities, but stop whining for their return.

They're gone, so let it go.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is mwellens@miningjournal.net.

 
 

 

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