For 55 years the stadium at Junction City High School has served as the home for Blue Jay football. The final regular season game at Al Simpler Stadium will be played Friday night when the Blue Jays host the Emporia Spartans in a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Ironically the very first game played at the stadium on Sept. 24, 1965 resulted in a 7-6 victory for Junction City over Emporia. In 1976 the Class 4A state championship game was also played at the stadium on a bitterly cold day with Emporia prevailing over the Blue Jays 32-16.
The stadium was built for $102,950 with another expense of $19,149 for lighting.
Former coach and Athletic Director, Jim Pendarvis, remembered back to 1965 and noted that as the stadium was being installed it was a phenomenal thing to witness. "Because it was built on the slope and they had to create a lot of that. " Pendarvis noted that there was a lot of interest in the pre-cast units and sections. "There were these cranes up there lowering these pre-cast sections down on the pylons."
Current JCHS Athletic Director Matt Westerhaus has invited some former coaches to return for the ballgame Friday night. He also noted that there have only been four head coaches in the history of the stadium including the late Al Simpler plus Ron Hill, Jerry Stuckert and the head coach for the past 27 years Randall Zimmerman. Westerhaus knows that there will be some sentiment attached to the contest Friday evening. "There's a lot of memories at that stadium. " Westerhaus noted that beginning next year it will be a new experience for the Junction City coaching staff and players when the move is made to the new high school, which is currently under construction on the west side of the city. "We sure don't want to forget all those great memories and things that have happened at that ( Al Simpler ) stadium. " Inviting back the former coaches will help celebrate good times at the stadium.
In recent years the stadium has also been the home field for Blue Jay and Lady Jay soccer.
JCHS officials do expect to host one or possibly more playoff games this year at Al Simpler Stadium this season. The Blue Jays are currently 5-1. You can hear Friday night's game on 107.9 FM and 1420 KJCK AM with the pregame broadcast beginning at 6:30 p.m.