Thursday, October 6, 2022
Oct. 6, 2022

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Tim Martinez: Attention now turns to John O’Rourke Field

Tim Martinez: High school sports

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor

Few stories I’ve written in my 20-plus years at The Columbian have generated the kind of reactions I’ve received from the story on the history behind Kiggins Bowl.

It seems that just about any event I’ve been to so far this season — from football games to golf matches — someone brings up the Kiggins Bowl story.

It’s been great as coaches, administrators, graduates from Hudson’s Bay or Fort Vancouver have reached out to share their memories of playing at Kiggins Bowl.

This Friday, Kiggins Bowl will host its first football doubleheader of the season when Fort Vancouver plays Stevenson at 5 p.m., followed by Hudson’s Bay against R.A. Long at 8 p.m.

Last Saturday, Columbia River and Skyview players used the locker rooms in the new fieldhouse on the north side of the field. However, Dave Bennett, athletic director for Vancouver Public School, said that when Kiggins hosts a doubleheader, one set of teams would have to use the old locker rooms under the Kiggins grandstand.

The good news is that the old locker rooms have been resealed and repainted. But they are still nowhere near as nice as the rooms in the fieldhouse.

River and Skyview played the first varsity football game at renovated Kiggins last Saturday because River had circled this Friday as the date they wanted to formally dedicate their high school field as John O’Rourke Field.

Friday’s game at Columbia River between the Rapids and Mark Morris will be the first at River since the grandstand was reconstructed almost 50 years after it was first built.

Now some fans may wonder why Skyview, Fort and Bay all played their home games at Kiggins Bowl, but River gets its own on-campus stadium.

The answer to that question dates back to the original construction of Columbia River High School in 1962.

Back then, the school district decided that there was no way the grass field at Kiggins Bowl could withstand a third school sharing that facility.

The Kiggins Bowl field regularly turned very muddy late in the season in those first years when Fort and Bay shared it, and adding a third team would only make that worse.

So River got its own stadium. Oddly enough, just like Kiggins Bowl experienced in its construction, the River grandstand had to deal with cost overruns and construction delays.

River would in fact share Kiggins Bowl with Bay and Fort for its first three seasons. River finally got to play its first game on campus on Oct. 9, 1965, when River played Battle Ground to a 7-7 tie.

The stadium was dedicated with a pre-game ceremony that included “colorful fireworks and the velocious beat of CR’s band,” The Columbian reported.

Nearly a half century later, the festivities for Friday’s dedication of John O’Rourke Field, named for the longtime football coach at River, will begin at 6:25 p.m. with a welcome from current head coach Brett Smedley. That will be followed by guest speakers that will include Brett Pierce, the former River standout who would star at Stanford and play three seasons in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys.

The event will conclude at 6:49 p.m. with past River players making a tunnel for the current River team to run through as the Rapids take the field.

Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Friday, with the kickoff against the Monarchs set for 7 p.m.

Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4538,

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