It is one of the most popular places in the nation to watch a high school football game and it’s celebrating 75 years this season.
The stadium, which has been nicknamed “The Rock” because of the 30 foot sandstone wall in the North end zone, was built-in 1936 with the dedication of civic leader Lawrence Jelsma, a bond election and the Works Progress Administration.
Jelsma, whom was educated in Guthrie schools, never showed interest in politics until friends insisted he made the move. Jelsma was elected on three occasions to serve as Mayor but he refused to accept the honor.
After a failed bond election by a few votes in 1931 for $10,000 to build a gridiron, bleachers and adjoining lots, Jelsma was credited for reviving the program under a new concept of a football, softball, baseball and a year round recreational field.
Unfortunately, Jelsma never got to see a game inside the stadium as he died suddenly at the age of 41 with pneumonia on December 30, 1934. The stadium was named in his honor and memory.
The first baseball game played in the stadium was between the Guthrie Merchants and Logan County All Stars and the first football game was between Guthrie and Edmond on September 18, 1936.
The restoration of Jelsma Stadium was initiated by a bond issue that was passed on February 8, 2005. The construction began on April 11, 2005 with the total cost of the reconstruction costing $3,255,403.
A tremendous effort was made to insure the stadium retained its original charm. The original sandstone was removed from the sideline walls, cleaned and placed back on the newly constructed walls. Sandstone from the original ticket booths were saved and used to accent the block on the new booths, concession stands and press box.
The grand re-opening took place on August 31, 2006 and on that night Guthrie defeated Shawnee, 19-7, and since the re-opening Guthrie has compiled a 29-3 record inside The Rock.
ESPN named Jelsma Stadium as the 13th best high school stadiums to watch a game across the nation. In a previous year, Street and Smith recognized Jelsma as a top 10 stadium.