The glass and garbage-strewn field with water drains smack-dab in the middle is gone, as is the worn-out chain-link fence. In their places are a shiny new Field Turf field and a sturdy wrought-iron fence. The pock-marked, pot-holed track has been replaced with a brand new, all-weather rubberized version.
There are permanent lights where there were none, a concession stand with bathrooms, new aluminum bleachers, a press box better than any in the city and a quality loudspeaker system.
Thursday night, the Minneapolis South Tigers will play their first football game at the school’s newly renovated Les Barnard Stadium. Not only is everything new, it’s the first time in school history that the Tigers will play a home football game under permanent lights.
The field has already been used for boys’ and girls’ soccer home games and has received nothing but positive feedback.
“It used to be horrible,” said South Athletic Director Amy Cardarelle, who was a longtime girls' soccer coach at South. “It should reinstate pride in the school. People are like ‘Wow, this place is really cool.’
"And it’s not just other city kids. When Duluth [the South boys' soccer team hosted Duluth East in its season opener] is coming down here and going ‘This is really nice,’ that makes a big difference. The image Minneapolis sports has is rundown, shot-up, gang-ridden. Now you can see these kids have something nice.”
The upgrades to the field were first proposed in 1996. Those plans were shelved and not revisited until 2017, when a group of South boosters dug them out after Minneapolis Public Schools finished building the Adult Basic Education and Transition Plus facility nearby.
The cost of the new field and its amenities were unavailable Wednesday, but Cadarelle speculated that the total cost was about $3.2 million. Much of it was funded by grants and donors, the biggest of whom was Harvey Feldman, a 1961 graduate of the Minneapolis school system, who paid for the new press box and sound system.
“Harvey wanted to pay for the lights, but when I told him that was covered, he said ‘What else do you need?’” Cardarelle said.
Football coach Rodney Lossow, a graduate of South, said the biggest benefit for the school is having a quality practice facility.
“We can put multiple teams on here, just by working over four hours of time, and that’s what I love about it,” Lossow said. “You can get a downpour like we had the other day, withstand the downpour, and then you have a solid field to practice on.”
Lossow said his players are excited to play home game under the lights, but he’s not sure they know what’s ahead of them when they host Breck.
“I don’t think they’ve ever witnessed a crowd and because its opening night Minneapolis, brand-new field, huge advertisement, I think that will be a decent crowd for us,” he said. “That will be fun for them.”