CLAY CENTER (KSNT) – The Otto Unruh Football Field in Clay Center is in the process of being demolished and a new field is set to be constructed closer to Clay Center Community High School.

Clay Center Mayor Jim Thatcher said the demolition became a hot topic at city council meetings. After 80 years of use, Thatcher said some were concerned to see the history of the field erased.

The Otto Unruh Football Field was sold to Penni Lane Investments LLC in late 2022. The City of Clay Center received a demolition permit request Feb. 9, 2023 and issued the demolition permit Feb. 13.

The demolition process was expected to begin three weeks after the demolition permit was issued and was expected to take three weeks to complete, according to the demolition permit. The estimated demolition cost was between $40,000 and $50,000.

Thatcher said the structure was built out of limestone in the ’30s and had started to fragment. The City of Clay Center transferred ownership of the field to the Clay Center Community High School in the ’60s, according to Thatcher.

“In reality,” Thatcher said. “The city didn’t want it back because it was in desperate need of repair.”

The new field will be located east of the high school. School Superintendent Brett Nelson said the old field was only used about five to six times a year for home games.

The Clay Center Community High School had three sources of funding for the new field, which was expected to cost $2 million to build. Firstly, $950,000 was earned through private donations, $750,000 from USD 379 capital outlay and $300,000 from the sale of Otto Unruh Field.

The Otto Unruh Field was sold Nov. 14, 2022, to Penni Lane Investments LLC for $302,000 after a four to three vote by the Clay Center Community High School Board.

To reach the $950,000 goal, the Tiger Legacy Club was formed. The first 100 donations of $1,000 awarded membership to the club and designated names to the stadium donor wall. Other naming rights were sold including distinctive signage at the stadium entrance for $250,000.

The school said the new field was expected to be ready for the start of the 2023 season.