On Feb. 3, McDaniel College held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Kenneth R. Gill Stadium.
In an article by The Eagle's Steve Jones, at ExploreCarroll.com, he noted that at the ceremonies, "shovels dug into a pile of dirt at McDaniel College" to kick off the project.
Actually, that wasn't just any ol' "pile of dirt," but rather soil from a storied history — for both the college and Westminster.
The new $8 million, 1,434-seat Gill Stadium, which will replace the existing 900-seat Bair Stadium, will provide spectators a great view of the running track and athletic field.
That track has been known since June 10, 1922, as Hoffa Field.
Of course, growing up in Westminster in the 1950s, it was really known as "the football field on the Geiman farm." In the years before 1922, when the college was outside of Westminster city limits, the Geiman farm, and the then-Duvall Farm, were located between the campus and what we now know as Baugher's Restaurant.
The first mention of the Geiman farm in the definitive history of the college, "Fearless and Bold," written by Dr. James E. Lightner, is in 1888. It was in that year when "four acres of land had been purchased from Daniel Geiman, whose farm adjoined the college property, so that the grounds were extended 125 feet to the north, where Albert Norman Ward Hall and the Gill (gymnasium) complex are now located.
"Part of the new property was so level … it could be turned into a ball field."
Lightner cites the December 1888 issue of the 'WMC Monthly' to say, "A large fence and seating capacity for 300 will be erected."
Lightner further notes, "A few years later, an eight-mile cinder track would be added. The students felt this was one of the most important land acquisitions made by the college."
The rest of the Geiman property, a 65-acre farm, became available to the college upon the death of W.H. Geiman, and was purchased on March 31, 1920, for $26,201.
On Feb. 18, 1921, according to Lightner, a special meeting of the board "recommended beginning a special campaign to raise $35,000 to create a new athletic field on the newly purchased Geiman farm.
The "new" athletic complex was named after Arthur P. Hoffa, who donated $6,000 toward the erection of the grandstand.
An emphasis on athletic facilities has been a recurring theme throughout the history of the college. My library copy of the February 1934 "Western Maryland College Bulletin," makes a special reference to Hoffa Athletic Field, noting that it's "one of the most complete and up-to-date athletic fields in the eastern part of the United States… (with) proper watering facilities.
"The field is equipped for … foot-ball, base-ball, soccer, pushball, dodge-ball … providing for both men and women."
When is not walking in circles on the track at McDaniel College, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.