History of Rogers Stadium
By Patti Hillard
Photo by LaBelle staff, 1947. See photo gallery for more photos dating back to the 1920s
Editor's note: A two-phase Rogers Stadium construction and renovation project was completed in the summer of 2019. The facility is the home of the football, soccer, lacrosse and track and field teams, in addition to other district programs that have the opportunity to use it for other fitness activities. It includes closed bleachers that seat nearly 4,000 people, two concession stands, new restrooms, team rooms, an official’s room, athletic training room and more. It is also ADA compliant with a parking lot on the south end of the field. The track and field area is named in memory of two late Bellefonte Area High School graduates, Jeremy Herbstritt and Lt. Jonas Panik, and longtime coach Dave Schaub who still currently volunteers with the track and field program. There is an eight-lane track with throwing and jumping areas. The lights will also be used to light up the field when necessary and will also be open for community use during non-student activities and events.
Athletics have always been an important part of Bellefonte High School. Men and women have been competing in school sports since near the school’s inception. The 1890s townspeople would find Bellefonte’s gridiron team practicing and playing games on the Glass Work’s Meadow Field, owned by the Warner Lime Company and developed by Bellefonte Academy. The field was barren of bleachers; only a rope surrounded the playing field. Community members would gather on Friday afternoons to cheer on the hometown team. The football players would run from the school on Allegheny Street to and from practices and games.
In the 1930s, locals – led by Bill Sieg – organized the purchase of farmland owned by Tom Beaver for the development of athletic fields to be use by the Bellefonte community, as well as organized high school teams. The field was known as Hughes Field. The dedication of the athletic facility in the summer of 1937 included entertainment by the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team.
The school district eventually purchased the athletic facility. Lights were erected on the field in 1948 and football became the Friday night entertainment. The players were still required to run to and from the high school on Allegheny Street to the field on East Bishop Street for practices and games.
On Sept. 12, 1992, the Bellefonte athletic field was dedicated to doctors J. Coburn and Hugh J. Rogers. The father and son duo served as team physicians for a combined 86 years. Hugh Rogers graduated from Bellefonte High School in 1937, where he was a member of the undefeated football team. At the dedication ceremony, the athletic facility was named Rogers Stadium.
At the height of competition among Bellefonte and State College football teams, battling for the coveted Iron Kettle, the former Bellefonte football field was entertainment for more than 5,000 guests. The field was utilized for decades for football games and admired by visiting teams and fans for many years. The high school added track and field as a sanctioned, school-sponsored sport in 1971. Although the stadium fell short of adequate provisions for the track and field components, the student athletes and their coaches made the best of what was available. Home track and field meets ended by 1992 and the team has since competed all of its meets on the road – until the 2019 opening of the newly-renovated Rogers Stadium that includes an eight-lane track and all other features.
The new era of field and stadium facilities for the school and community are a priority and the goal and vision for student outdoor facility needs and community enjoyment is to actively pursue those endeavors in a manner of pride and excellence.