MANCHESTER — Gill Stadium Centennial Weekend has arrived, and the Manchester High Central boys’ soccer team gets to kick off the festivities tonight at 7 when it hosts Alvirne of Hudson.
Baseball and football are the two sports most associated with Gill
over the years, but for the Central soccer team, getting to open the weekend celebration is something special.
“It’s fantastic for us because it’s a beautiful place to play. We’re kind of spoiled to play in a place like that,” said Central coach Chris LaBerge. “It’s only been in recent years that Central soccer has played there. Every time I go out there, having lived in Manchester my whole life, it’s a thrill. I love playing there.”
The celebration extends through Saturday and Sunday, with all but the finale taking place inside Gill.
On Saturday from 1-4 p.m. the public is invited to enjoy various attractions on the stadium turf, including races, face painting, a climbing wall and other activities. At 4 p.m., the bands from Central, Concord, Manchester Memorial and Manchester West will perform. At 7 p.m., Central will host Concord for a football game and fireworks display.
Sunday marks the rededication of historic facility, which opened as Textile Field on Sept. 8, 1913, and became Gill Stadium — renamed in honor of former city employee Ignace Gill — in 1967. The day’s activities begin at 10 a.m. with a performance by the Temple Band, recognized as the country’s original town musical ensemble. The rededication ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m., and the weekend’s festivities end with a show by the New Orleans troupe Vaud & the Villains at 7 p.m. on the main stage of Veterans Memorial Park.
LaBerge said he has made sure his players understand the history of Gill Stadium and what it means to the city.
“I think most of the kids are aware of the history of Gill Stadium. I have certainly talked to them about it, and we’ll talk about it again at practice before we get out there Friday,” LaBerge said. “Younger kids don’t realize or appreciate the significance of playing in a place that’s been there this long and is so historic. They don’t have many opportunities in life to be on a field like that, and I will try and impress that upon them.”
Central enters the game at 0-2 while Alvirne is 1-0 on the young season. Central played its first “home” game at Southern New Hampshire University, so tonight will mark the first appearance at Gill this season for the Little Green.
“We’re thrilled. I walk in there and it reminds me of going to see (American) Legion (baseball) games as a kid or Central football games,” LaBerge said. “For me, it’s pretty cool.”