A glorious past, an active future for Gill Stadium at 100
Manchester Central’s Samual Binigono battles with Alvirne’s Jake Nazarian during their Division I boys’ soccer match at Gill Stadium in Manchester on Friday. The game was part of this weekend’s Gill Stadium Centennial celebration. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
Gill 100th goings-onThe Gill Stadium Centennial Celebration, which began with Friday's boys' soccer game between Manchester High Central and Alvirne of Hudson, continues with events on Saturday and Sunday. All events except for the performance that concludes the celebration are at Gill. Admission for all but the football game is free.
1-4 p.m.: Play on the Turf activities for all ages include races, a climbing wall, face painting and more.
4 p.m.: Marching bands from the city's three public high schools and Concord High perform.
7 p.m.: Central hosts Concord in the football season-opener for both teams.
Post-game: Fireworks display.
10 a.m.: The Temple Band, considered America's original town musical ensemble, performs.
11 a.m.: The re-dedication ceremony features local dignitaries, celebrity guests, and performances by the Average Joes Barbershop Quartet and the A.O.H. Pipes and Drums Band.
7 p.m.: At Veterans Memorial Park, the celebration concludes with a show by Vaud & the Villains, a 19-member Vaudeville-style ensemble from New Orleans.
But as big an event as the stadium's opening was, the fact that its re-dedication will take place Sunday on its centennial is, in some respects, even more remarkable.
On Friday night, Gill Stadium Centennial CeCenCentral hosts Concord in the season-opening football game for both teams.
After the gates open this morning at 9:30, festivities begin with a performance by the Temple Band from 10-11. All events are free, except for the football game but including a postgame fireworks display.
Games where Gill has stood for a century actually began decades before its construction, back when the cattle-grazing area known as The Plains was converted to the Beech Street Grounds for early games of baseball. In 1895, Varick Park, a wooden-grandstand facility serving as home to a professional team in the old New England League, opened at the site, on land then owned by the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company.
One thing that hasn't changed is Gill's status as Manchester's premier facility for high school football and amateur baseball. It remains home to Manchester Central for both sports, as well as for field hockey and soccer. The football team for Manchester's Catholic high school, Trinity, also plays its home games at Gill, and every Thanksgiving the city's two highest-rated teams meet in the Turkey Bowl.
Once home to track and field meets on a long-since-removed cinder track, Gill welcomes back the sport of running next month when the Footrace for the Fallen finishes inside the stadium for the first time. A 5-kilometer run honoring fallen police officers and benefitting the Manchester Police Athletic League, the new course for the Oct. 13 race starts on Valley Street in front of the new city police department building, loops through downtown and leads participants through the right-field entrance to the stadium, with a finish at the 40-yard line. In the meantime, the Gill Stadium Centennial Organizing Committee, which has worked tirelessly for more than a year to put together the commemoration, looks forward to welcoming longtime and first-time visitors to this weekend's events at one New Hampshire's most iconic structures.