“If you build it, he will come”
They are not described on any park map, but they may be the most utilized destinations in all of Oglebay Park.
I am speaking of the three lush green, open fields that reside within the Park’s boundaries. The above quotation from the popular movie “Field of Dreams” illustrated how captivating a beautiful open field can be to the human spirit. Please join me as I visit each of these gifts within Oglebay.
The least known of the three is Camp Russell Field (2.1 acres) also known as the “Band Field.” Located over the hill from the camp’s main building, it was leveled off in 1938 as the entire facility was being built by the Civilian Conservation Corp or (CCC). The field was actively used for many years by youth groups, including 4-H Camps.
During the 1960s, I would accompany my father, Coach Bill Freeman, as he brought the mighty Orange Knights from Wellsburg High School to Camp Russell for two weeks of training. The memory is often brought back to me whenever I am watching the movie “Remember the Titans.” The field, along with being lined in 10-yard increments, had a goal post at one end, and the last drill of the day was always the sprint up the steep embankment to ring the bell, which remains there to this day.
What else goes on in this field? A few years ago it was the site of a regional competition of Burmese Mountain Dogs. Oglebayfest has so many worthy activities we often forget this ball field hosts the tractor pull during the first full weekend in October each year. However, one of my favorite treats that fill the hot summer air is the sound of marching bands hard at work on the field preparing for the fall season.
The Pine Room Field (2.43 acres) also known as the “Athletic Field” is located above the Crispin area parking lot. It is the most used field, as illustrated by the worn out grass from repetitive activity. This field was also leveled by the CCC when they built the Pine Room and the swimming pool in 1936.
In the early years this field was used to provide a venue for separate annual dog and horse shows. In my teen years while working for the park, I remember directing cars to park on the field on summer weekends as visitors to the pool, golf course, and tennis courts all converged to enjoy their favorite activity. However, as the name implies, the athletic field’s main focus has always been about the competitive games of football, soccer, and softball… just to name a few.
Again, my memories take me back to this field as a young park employee. The three main departments comprised of summer help were the pool/Pine Room; the lake/Children Center; and the golf course crews. The departments would play each other in very competitive games of touch football, and there was always great camaraderie among the employees during these years at Oglebay.
A regular activity for over 50 years, and one that still continues to this day, is the Tuesday and Wednesday evening softball games. I have been on the Crispin Golf Course and heard the roar from the field. It may have been a home run or possibly an error or just the last rite of the evening of dumping the remaining water into the cooler on an unsuspecting victim. Yes, these guys started the ice bucket challenge years ago!
The sport of soccer, which really took off in the Valley in the early ’90s, has dominated the field usage since then. The size of the pitch allows for high school teams and travel teams to play on the large field, while the Wheeling Area Soccer Association can run multiple small side games for their youth.
The third, and certainly most viewed field is called the Cabin Ball Field (2.6 acres), or as it is sometimes referred to, the “Observatory Field.” This is the largest, but not the most level of the three fields, and is located above the cabin circle and across from the Schrader Environmental Center. Those of you who have enjoyed the trip through the Festival of Lights at Christmastime can identify the field as the place where the dinosaurs were and now the circus display can be found.
The months of spring can offer a fun day on the field for parents and children alike as they enjoy the activity of flying a kite. There always seems to be a breeze, and the lack of “kite-eating trees” offers another bonus. Another interesting observation for the family to enjoy is watching for the herds of deer (20 to 30) that congregate in the field in the evening hours.
All of these fields are free to us. So, as we venture outside to enjoy a much anticipated spring, let us remember to utilize these fields, relish them, but always keep in mind what a true gift they are and that we should do our best to treat them with respect.
(photos provided by Chris Freeman)