Bids awarded for turf on Rigdon Field at Bill Doenges Memorial Stadium and at softball field
Post date: Oct 23, 2019 10:08:52 PM
On Monday, October 21, 2019 the Bartlesville Board of Education approved naming the baseball field at Bill Doenges Memorial Stadium after long-time coach Spence Rigdon. As part of a $16.1 million bond issue approved by 81% of voters in August 2019, the board also awarded a $569,400 bid from General Sports Surfaces to install artificial turf on the infields of Rigdon Field at Doenges Memorial Stadium as well as the softball field near Madison Middle School. The baseball field installation should be completed before spring 2019 with the softball field completed later.
Spence Rigdon is currently the school district’s Athletics and Activities Director and was instrumental in the effort to have the baseball field and stadium transferred from the city to the district in 2016 so that the district could invest in renovations and maintenance of the historic facility.
Mr. Rigdon is in the final stages of his life due to the ravages of colon cancer, which he was diagnosed with three and a half years ago. After numerous surgeries and extensive treatment, he is now transitioning to hospice care. Concerning Rigdon’s battle with cancer, Superintendent Chuck McCauley has stated, “Spence is the toughest person I have ever known.”
Mr. Rigdon has positively influenced many lives through his coaching in baseball and other sports, teaching, church, athletics administration, and community involvement. He taught social studies in the Bartlesville Public Schools for 18 years including a long stint in the district’s alternative high school program. He served as a district varsity baseball coach for thirteen years. In 2015, he was the recipient of the annual Kurt Schmoldt Teacher Appreciation Award and soon after that earned a master’s degree. In June of 2018, he became the Director of Athletics and Activities.
A Bartlesville native, Rigdon is a 1991 graduate of Bartlesville High School. He attended Kansas City Community College and graduated from Pittsburg State University in Kansas, where he played baseball. Rigdon began his career as the head baseball coach in Marysville, Kansas in 1996 while also coaching junior-level football and basketball. He later returned to Bartlesville to coach junior high football and basketball and freshman baseball. In 2001, he began coaching varsity football and was named the varsity assistant coach in baseball in 2004 before his stint as head coach.
Spence’s wife, Christina, is a Family Support Coordinator for Title I schools in the district. They have three children: Rilee (19), Bradee (16), and Cy (11).
HISTORY OF THE STADIUM & FIELD
The city has not had its own baseball team for many years, but Bill Doenges Memorial Stadium has long been the home of the Bartlesville Bruins baseball team. It has also been the home of the local American Legion Baseball Program and other area teams. The Stadium twice hosted the American Legion World Series, in 2003 and 2007, and for several years has hosted the Sandy Koufax World Series of the American Amateur Baseball Congress. The district supports use of the stadium by other teams.
EARLY BASEBALL IN BARTLESVILLE
Bartlesville has been a baseball town since its first team, the Brickbats, formed in 1895. The early-day teams had a community ballpark with a roofed grandstand for 500 spectators at what was the south end of the city near Johnstone Avenue and 11th Street. That park was quickly abandoned for a new stadium just south of there, which hosted 53 home games for the Bartlesville Grays. In 1907 the city purchased land just north of the city limits from William Johnstone on the allotment of his daughter, Nellie Johnstone, at the north end of Dewey Avenue - the site of present-day Bill Doenges Memorial Stadium.
BARTLESVILLE MUNICIPAL ATHLETIC FIELD
The first lights over the field were lit in October 1916. The wooden grandstand was replaced by today's roofed concrete facility via a $42,000 bond issue in 1930. It was dedicated as Municipal Athletic Field on May 2, 1932, and besides baseball games has hosted parades, boxing matches, rodeos, celebrations, and revivals. It even served as the high school football field until Custer Stadium was built in the early 1950s at College High School.
Contractor James H. Hamilton built the stadium and concrete fence. The stadium was known as the only professional ballpark in the world with the same distance (340 feet) to the fence anywhere in fair territory, although today the home plate has moved so the field is no longer fully symmetrical.
BILL DOENGES MEMORIAL STADIUM
In 1997 the Bartlesville Municipal Athletic Field was renamed Bill Doenges Memorial Stadium in appreciation of nearly 60 years of support provided by Bill Doenges to the American Legion baseball program, with the Doenges Ford Injuns teams, which were later renamed the Doenges Indians. That league began a tournament in 1959 which became a city tradition and was later renamed the Glen Winget Tournament in memory of a beloved baseball manager who had been instrumental in starting it. The 60th Annual Glen Winget Memorial Baseball Tournament was held at the stadium in July 2019.
In 1998 Bartlesville began bidding to host the American Legion World Series and won the bid for 2003. $1.25 million was spent renovating the stadium, and the city again hosted the event in 2007.
TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP
In June 2016 the City of Bartlesville and Bartlesville Public School District approved the transfer of the Bill Doenges Memorial Stadium from the city to the district. Spence Rigdon was instrumental in that change, which allowed the district to invest bond issue dollars in major improvements to the pressbox and locker rooms and now to install artificial turf on the infield. The transfer also allowed the district to sell the ad space at the stadium and utilize the proceeds in maintaining the treasured and historic facility.
RIGDON FIELD AT BILL DOENGES MEMORIAL STADIUM
Just as there is now Lyon Field at Custer Stadium for the football program at Bartlesville High School, there will now be Rigdon Field at Bill Doenges Memorial Stadium for the baseball program. There is no plan to change the name of the Stadium itself, and part of the agreement between the city and the school district for the transfer of the property was that the city would have to be consulted before the stadium's name could be changed or any significant changes made to its façade. Rigdon's name will be instead be incorporated into the design of the new artificial turf on the in-field, funded by a 2019 school district bond issue.