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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Kempner Memorial Stadium & Athletic Field

I received a request recently from the City of Sugar Land about the history of Kempner Stadium.  I thought I'd post some of the research I've assembled.  

Sugar Land had an athletic field beginning in the very early part of the 20th century. Baseball was the principal sport until 1927, when Sugar Land High School started a football team.  They played in an open field roughly where the outfield of the baseball diamond was located.  Fans roamed the sidelines - there were no stands or amenities of any kind.  All games were played during the day - there were no lights.

The Sugar Land Gators won their first district championship in 1938, which earned them an upgrade to their home ground.  They got lights, wooden stands (on the east side of the field), concession stands, and restrooms. The new stadium debuted in September 1939 when the Gators played Eagle Lake.  You'll see below, the home team downed the visitors 21-0.

In 1958, the stadium was upgraded with cement stands (on the west side of the field) and an electric scoreboard.  The stadium has changed further over the years, but it's still used today.

Here are images of two plaques dedicating the stadium and the scoreboard.  I've posted info on Stu Clarkson in the past.  Click here and here to view those entries.

 I. H. Kempner, Jr. plaque.

 Stuart Clarkson plaque.

I want to thank Ralph McCord's family for letting me scan the following items, which chronicle the opening game of the 1939 season.

Ralph McCord in 1939. 

Newspaper article about new stadium.  

Photo from the Eagle Lake game in 1939.  

Gator record of the 1939 season.  

Gator line up from the 1939 season.

The stadium also served as a venue for school graduations.  Here are items from the 1941 graduation ceremony on Kempner Field.  (My thanks go to the Kadlecek family for these images.)

1941 SLHS Commencement.

1941 SLHS Commencement Program.

1941 SLHS Commencement Program.

The following photo shows construction of the west-side stands in 1958.

Construction at Kempner Stadium in 1958.

W. H. Louviere, Sr. (President of Imperial Sugar Company) and Dr. Leslie Wheeler, Jr. (school board member) on the night of October 3, 1958 when the new stadium was dedicated and renamed in honor of I. H. Kempner, Jr.

Mr. Louviere (left) and Dr. Wheeler at Kempner Stadium on
October 3, 1958.