By Judy Reed
With a potential lease agreement between the Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Cedar Springs in the works, Skinner Field may get a rebirth.
The field, once the pride of of Cedar Springs and the local school district, has fallen into disrepair.
The field currently is home to Rocket football on Saturdays throughout the summer and fall, Middle School Track, CASSA practices and games, and local residents who come to walk the track.
“Literally thousands of parents come to games from all over Kent County, and only see the entrance sign and the peeling paint of Red Hawk pride,” said Cedar Springs Area Chamber President Shawn Kiphart. “For some, that’s all they see of Cedar Springs. Is that the impression we want to leave?”
Kiphart said he’d like to keep the field as a multiplex and available to various groups on a first come first served basis, with a 3 to 5-year commitment. He would also like to get field sponsors to place on the fences—maybe 13 of them, to help raise funds for the complex.
CASSA (Cedar Select Soccer Association) also expressed an interest in upgrading the field exclusively for soccer use, and made a presentation to the City Council. However, City Manager Thad Taylor recommended to City Council that the Chamber get the lease to manage the field. “It’s been my position from the start that we didn’t want it to be a single use facility, “ he explained. “We wanted someone who shared the vision that it would be a community resource. I’m looking for someone we will lease to that will play well with others, with no exclusivity issues.”
Kiphart would like to get some input from the community on whether they would like to see the facility upgraded, and whether they would help donate and raise funds for it—whether through a sponsorship agreement or some other way. The Chamber, barely a year old, doesn’t have cash in the bank to do it on their own.
Anyone interested in giving input can email Shawn at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 616-773-5126.
Skinner Field was named after J.A. (Bert) Skinner, a leading citizen and businessman. He owned Skinner’s Drug Store, which was located at 43 S. Main Street, the vacant lot where we now hold the Christmas tree lighting. According to the Cedar Springs Story by Sue Harrison and Donna DeJonge, Skinner started work at the age of 13 in a local drug store, and later set a record as the youngest person to pass the state pharmaceutical board. He was given his pharmaceutical license when he turned 18.
Skinner served as village president for 25 years, and was president of the board of education for 25 years. He was a state senator for two terms, and involved in Republican politics all during his life. On Friday, July 6, 1948, the Village of Cedar Springs paid tribute to Bert Skinner, and part of the tribute was the dedication of Cedar Springs Public School’s lighted athletic field, on the west side of Morley Park. In 1991, a gift was given to the school district, to construct a running track at the field. An agreement signed by both the school and city made it available for both school athletic events and the community to run on. It was created partly on school property and partly on city property, with the school district responsible for maintenance for a period of 99 years, or until they relocated the field and running track, which they did, in the mid-2000s, when they built Red Hawk Stadium. Since then, neither the school nor city has had revenues to maintain the field.