A three-man crew from Stik-Bilt Construction lowers the second upright of Nelson Field’s new goalposts into place.
By Peter Nocerini
IRON RIVER—When West Iron County’s football team took the field for its season opener Sept. 13, two familiar residents of Nelson Field weren’t there: the old H-shaped goal posts.
Instead, new yellow slingshot-type posts were in place behind each end zone, with orange wind ribbons atop each upright.
How new? They had only been installed the day before.
The goal posts are a gift from Paul Nelson, a descendent of the late Charles Nelson, former Stambaugh city manager, whose family donated the property that was developed into Nelson Field back in the 1930s. Paul Nelson lives in Illinois but spends his summers in Iron County.
The whole project was completed in blinding speed—less than two months. It started in mid July during the wine-tasting event at the Iron County Historical Museum in Caspian. West Iron County Superintendent Chris Thomson, who is also an assistant football coach, was helping at the wine table.
So was Nelson. For years, Nelson has been donating dessert wines to the museum as a fund-raiser. He and Thomson had worked there before and knew each other.
“After a little while,” said Thomson, “he came up and said, ‘I’d really like to donate some money so you can get new goal posts.’ And I said, ‘Thank you. We’ll be in touch.’”
Thomson called Athletic Director/head coach Mike Berutti the next day, and Berutti called Nelson. “They met, and they worked it all out very quickly,” Thomson said. “In under a week, Mike had them ordered.
“That’s why the timeline is so condensed.”
Nelson Field’s old posts had stood on either end of the gridiron, right on the end line (technically on the field of play), for generations. Thomson said Nelson remembered seeing the same posts back when he was in mddle school.
At some point half a century ago, high school rules changed to make goal posts slightly wider. Extensions were welded onto the crossbar to increase the distance between the uprights.
Each of the new aluminum posts is attached to a poured concrete base 6 feet behind the end line. Thomson said Nelson wanted 4½-inch pipes like at college. “He was adamant that we get the biggest diameter that we could.”
School officials ordered new protective pads and contacted Miss Dig and the city of Iron River to make sure no utilities would be affected.
The new posts arrived a little later than expected. Thomson took one look at them and went to Berutti. ‘There’s no way on God’s green earth that we’re going to put these up off of ladders. They’re huge!’
“The main elbow part is 6 5/8 inches in diameter.”
No problem: Stik-Bilt Construction was just a phone call away. “They have the equipment,” Thomson said.
First, they put down a concrete base for each post and let them set for six days. When the big day came last Thursday, things went quickly.
First, the old posts were cut down—school officials didn’t want to get caught without goal posts when L’Anse came to town. The old white posts performed their final duties during West Iron’s scrimmage with Forest Park on Aug. 23.
Each of the new posts came in four pieces: the base/elbow, the crossbar and the two uprights, plus the orange flags, bolts and set screws.
It didn’t take long to put them together, and everything was done in plenty of time for the season opener.