FOND DU LAC — The Fond du Lac Cardinals made it to the playoffs after winning their homecoming game Friday. That game could have been the last played on Fruth Field, as the district is building a new stadium that is set to open next season.
For now, the Cardinals practice in a small field behind the high school. But for games, they have to travel to a different field downtown, about 12 minutes away.
"We'd either have to have the kids drive themselves and some of them don't have their license yet or we'd have to take some sort of bus," said head coach Sam Plucker.
The new stadium will be located on campus, making it much more convenient for players.
It will also have a significant upgrade: a turf field, which most stadiums in the conference already have.
Fruth field and the field the Cardinals use for practice are grass fields, which Plucker said makes playing in rainy or snowy conditions more difficult.
"We're just kind of doing our best to make sure that player safety is important," Plucker said. "With turf, it helps us a lot because we know that regardless of rain, no matter what's going on, it's gonna be a consistent surface. And it's gonna allow us to practice regardless of the weather."
But change often comes with some nostalgia, and some players said the change is bittersweet.
"Obviously the goal would be to have turf, of course, but the atmosphere of Fruth Field and just sort of being in a place where generations before you have played as well, I've always loved that experience. I mean, from playing junior football days, the dream has always been to get to play on that field," said Halden Krueger, a junior outside linebacker.
Plucker said he'll miss the old stadium, but thinks having a space to play on campus will generate more overall excitement for the program.
"The young kids are really excited to kind of have that stadium on campus," Plucker said. "Hopefully [it will] get more students at the game, hopefully get more people involved and be able to go out to practice at a beautiful facility every day is going to be awesome for them."
The new stadium will cost $6.2 million. Superintendent Jeffrey Fleig said $5.3 million will come out of the school's budget, and the rest will come from donations.
"For the previous two years we were able to save about $5.3 million of budget. With COVID, there was less transportation costs, less utility costs," Fleig said.
But this isn't the end of Fruth Field.
"We're gonna continue to take care of it and then I'm hoping that... it can be used by the community as well as our junior football league," Fleig said.
Fond du Lac will head to Kimberly for their first playoff game this Friday.
That means fans have to wait and see whether the Cardinals will fill the stands at Fruth again.