When the lights went out at Shuey Stadium at Riverside Brookfield High School on Friday, Oct. 17, it signaled the last regular-season football game that would be played at the stadium. It’s slated to be torn down in 2015 due to the ravages of time and use, but the memories of all that has happened at the site will remain.
Originally, the stadium did not have lights. But with Friday night being the night for high school football, the lights were installed amid some controversy in the 1980s. It was those lights that made it possible for Shuey Stadium to become a world-class concert venue.
In the mid-1980s, Brookfield Zoo was celebrating its 50th anniversary, and the celebration was to include a series of concerts to be held in Shuey Stadium. Who would have thought Shuey Stadium would be the venue for stars of country music and rock ‘n’ roll?
The day Johnny Cash arrived found then-Superintendent Jim Trost and I sitting on folding chairs on the field under the guise we didn’t want any harm to come to the new track. Actually we had hoped to get a glimpse of Cash, who would be appearing with his wife, June Carter Cash.
As the big rigs rolled in and crews made their way to set up on the stage at the north end of the field, we tried to look official. All we got to see was a crew setting up and hear a few sound checks. Later, however, the concert took place and we listened to the Man in Black himself, June Carter Cash and the Carter Family.
But Johnny Cash wasn’t the only big star to play Shuey Stadium. Subsequent concerts featured country music stars The Gatlin Brothers and Donny and Marie Osmond (tickets to that one didn’t sell very well, so you were able to get 2 tickets for the price of one). We took advantage of the deal and convinced our kids to go; none of us was disappointed.
There would be other concerts, including Three Dog Night and Kenny Rogers, who tossed autographed tambourines to select audience members. My daughter Tina was one of the lucky recipients.
But the best show was the Beach Boys, who brought their California sound to Brookfield. The bleachers were packed and it was standing room only on the field where beach balls were being tossed around. By the end of the night many of us wished we could be California girls.
Much has happened at the stadium, and will be remembered even after it comes down. And many will remember the summers when the music stars came to Shuey Stadium.
I don’t think Bill Shuey, the late athletic director for whom the stadium is named, ever could have imagined it.