Chet Anderson Stadium has been the home of Bemidji State University football since 1939 and offers a stunning lakeside setting that is practically unparalleled in college athletics. When field turf was installed in 2013, "The Chet" became home to both the BSU football and women's soccer teams.
History of the Stadium
As the Bemidji State Teachers College continued to increase its enrollment from just 130 students when it opened its doors on June 23, 1919 to 160 in 1923, the need for more space and facilities became apparent.
Mr. A.P White, a member of the Bemidji community and the Normal School Board, stated “now is the time for us to get our campus developed.”
At that time the east side of campus along the lakeshore was still wilderness. Mr. White’s suggestion was carried out and the grounds for tennis courts and a football field were leveled and surfaced in 1923.
The football field was located just east of the current student union along the shore of Lake Bemidji, just a few feet south from the current location of the stadium. The field ran north-south with sidelines running along the lakeshore.
In 1926, R.E. Mendenhall, BSU’s first staff member to hold a PhD who taught history and physical education, organized the college’s first football team. The team played four games that fall against local high schools. The first game played on the Bemidji State field (often referred to as Diamond Point Field) was held Oct. 27, 1926 against Cass Lake High School. Bemidji was victorious, winning the battle 13-0. The team ended the first season in Bemidji State history with a record of 1-2-1.
In August of 1935, with sponsorship by local organizations, citizens of Bemidji and the faculty, a $2,400 lighting system was installed in time for the upcoming season. Forty lights, mounted on eight 60-foot poles, illuminated the field brilliantly for the 1935 home opener Sept. 13 against Itasca Junior College. This would be the first night game to be played in Bemidji State history. The dedication for the new lighting system took place during halftime with a crowd of 1,500 in attendance. Bemidji State president M.W. Deputy, Mr. F.J McPartlin and Mr. H.Z. Mitchell spoke at the dedication ceremony and the game was preceded by a torchlight parade through the business section of the city.
A practice field was built in 1938. The field was built extending from the already-existing field west to Birchmont Road. A concrete building was also constructed at the southwest corner of the playing field to house football equipment.
In 1939, BSU received a $172,000 federal grant provided for sports fields, and all but a small portion was used to upgrade BSU’s athletics facilities. The projects included two new football fields and relocation of the existing fields, as well as a track, softball and baseball diamonds, soccer field, tennis courts and a general playing court. Concrete bleachers for the football field were included in the improvement plans. One of the new fields would be used as a practice field for football, while the game field was built inside the round cinder track. The location of the new field constructed as part of that project is the exact location of today’s field.
Throughout spring and summer of 1940, work continued on the new sports fields as well as the concrete bleachers. The 1940 football season opened on the newly constructed field as BSU played host to Concordia College on Sept. 27. But the $25,000 bleachers would not be complete until the 1941 season.
In 1941 the bleachers, one on each side of the field, were completed. The newly constructed bleachers housed two rest rooms, two shower rooms, a refreshment stand, two first-aid rooms, two ticket booths and offices for the coaches. The inside passageway of the bleachers was home to a 160 foot long and 11 foot wide cinder track used by the track team for training during inclement weather. The bleachers were made of reinforced concrete and were 180 feet long and 40 feet wide. The seats consisted of 15 rows of redwood benches set atop steel straps and would seat an estimated 1,500 people.
An enclosed sports booth, six feet wide and 14 feet long, occupied the position above and in the center of the north side bleachers. A glass front was installed to protect sports writers from inclement weather. With both bleachers completed the estimated capacity of the stadium was 3,500.
The present-day stadium and field has undergone modifications throughout the years, but the main structures are the same today as 60 years ago.
In 1989, a new scoreboard and new playing surface were installed.
The facility was named the Chet Anderson Stadium on Oct. 5, 1996, in honor of former head coach Chester A. Anderson (1955-1965).
In July 2013, construction crews began work on the playing surface of “The Chet”. The project totaling $1.3 million, included demolition of the running track surrounding the field and the installation of a new entry plaza with the focus of the project being the installation of a new drainage system and synthetic playing surface. Crews removed the natural grass surface, originally installed in 1989, installed a perimeter curb, drainage system and turf, complete with BSU’s athletic logo. [Turf Rendering]
Prior to 2014