Touted as one of, if not the, finest athletic fields in the state, Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School saw its first action Saturday, following a history-filled re-dedication ceremony.
Gary Hollier made the final speech to close the re-dedication ceremonies on a rainy, overcast day at the newly christened Ed Hollier Field, thanking everyone who came on behalf of the Hollier family.
The weather wasn’t too good for drawing a crowd, but it certainly felt like football season as the Kenai Kardinals took the field against the Nikiski Bulldogs for the first game of the year. Long-time Kardinal announcer and former superintendent of the school district Dale Sandahl gave a brief history of high school football on the Kenai and Ed Hollier’s role in making it all happen.
“He was what I call an ordinary man with some very extraordinary traits and that’s what sets him apart. What I remember about Ed and all of the folks involved in (building the first football field) is that they didn’t have any egos in mind. They didn’t have to take a lot of things to committees because there wasn’t time to take it to committees. They knew what had to be done and they got it done.”
Sandahl told the crowd that Hollier was generally regarded as one of the best bulldozer operators around. He was the second road foreman on the Peninsula, and his access to that equipment made construction of the first field possible in 1968.
In those boom years, newly arrived oil rig workers wanted football. The field they carved out was located by what was then Wildwood Air Force Base. Kari Mohn had just arrived with her husband, who was going to begin teaching in the rapidly expanding school district. Fresh in from California, she says she was a bit surprised at that first game 45 years ago.
“There weren’t any bleachers, we just stood around the field. The Airmen were dangling out of their dorms to watch this game,” she said with a chuckle. “The woman standing next to me was wearing a fur parka. And it was August. And I thought, what did I get myself into?”
During his presentation, Sandahl noted that in 1968, the population was growing so fast that no one could even make a guess as to the true number.
“This was a boom town, and those boomers were going to get football. The organized a booster club, and it was an interesting time. There were a lot of steps that didn’t have to be taken to get things done. That whole booster club was kind of like an Ed Hollier, and that’s why I think it’s neat that this field is named after Ed.”
“Dale Sandahl was right when he said that people had come for the oil patch from all over and their heritage was football, so let’s play football. And you heard all these accents, and to bring all these kids together into a cohesive team …Nobody expected them to do very well and they won their first game. It was very exciting,” Mohn said.
Those early teams were made of up students from all over the Central Peninsula. Sandahl said one player hitchhiked from Sterling each day to practice, and so that the first game at the new field was against a team that grew from that much more regional squad of the early days is telling of the overall growth the area has gone through.
In the game that followed, the Kardinals took down the Bulldogs 51-16.