Thirlby Field, is a 9,000-seat football stadium located in Traverse City, Michigan. It was built in 1934 on a site where football has been played since 1896. It is the home of the Traverse City Central Trojans, Traverse City West Titans and St. Francis Gladiators football teams.
Thirlby Field originally ran north and south along Pine Street when play began in 1896. Mr. Thirlby, a local farmer gave the land to the Traverse City Schools for athletic contests. In the early years it was known as Thirlby's farm fields, or 12th Street Athletic Field. The current configuration was originally built in 1934 and was one of the first lighted athletic fields in Northern Michigan. The stadium seated 5,000 until 1995 and is the only football stadium in Traverse City. Seating was enlarged to approx 7,000 at that time. Improvements to the stadium including the addition of locker rooms, public bathrooms, and an elevator to the press-box were made in 2009. How the modern Facility had its beginnings...In 1993 a small and dedicated group of former football players of Traverse City High School got together and planned, designed and tried to execute a completely new facility for the 13th and Pine Street location. Harry Running left a few hundred thousand dollars specifically for Thrilby Field renovations. It was a kick-start to getting going. The group that formed to tackle the mission was originally called Between The Fences, in reference to all the memorable games played at the stadium between the white rail fence that lines the field. A Plan to take the stadium back to its original 'north-south' layout and lower it in the ground on the Pine Street side was put forth. Three persons highly dedicated (one of which made the initial phone calls that invigorated the team) were the driving force behind this effort that lead the charge for new and classic facilities to serve the entire community. As a neighborhood icon, "Thirlby" (as it is known throughout the state of Michigan) was to have state-of-the-art seating and lighting. With the field lowered some 30–40 ft into the ground to make the top of the stadium at ground level. It was a true wonder; designed by a professional conceptual designer who is a former Traverse City Trojan Football player and graduate of the College of Creative Studies along with the assistance of another former Trojan Football player and product developer that headed up the group; (both were members of the original "3") along with a get things done former player and supporter, they had a design that awed all that saw it. Having raised $2 million of in-kind services and another $1 million committed in donations, the group was ready to move ahead at a very ambitious pace.
However, as so often happens in small towns and public venues, politics gets a mean grip on things such as this. With in-fighting by various groups such as soccer and tennis supporters (being green with envy as to the support for such facilities for football), and those same meddlers (as they were known) trying to split the school system into two high schools with a forthcoming bond-issue; the plans became muddled and the original group that grew into 10 to 12 guys were pushed out of the original organization. They were just a bunch of ex-ball players wanting to see something really good happen at their old stomping grounds. They came very very close.
Along the way, the outside influences that pushed their way in then had to come up with a new plan, since they could now not perform, as in-kind donations dried up along with support for the original concept due to all the political in-fighting. So today you have a concrete albeit better than what was there, stadium that seats about 7,000. However no bathrooms or locker rooms were ever built during this period. Monies were "re-allocated" to soccer and tennis facilities and the energy and vision for Thirlby became watered down and somewhat vanished for 12 to 13 years. However, in 2008 and 2009 a small group of supporters added modest locker rooms and bathrooms which were a marked improvement over what was built in the 1990s, but a far cry from what was to "be" built. New plans surfaced during this time to add style and more functionality to the stadium, that would have made it the show place for what existed there now. However, those plans were shelved and what exists today is a very serviceable uninspiring unfinished-looking gathering place.Thirlby Field is still the largest high school Stadium north of Grand Rapids, and the only one like it in the north country, now with artificial turf. Some have said it could have really been so much better. But for now, it is the place for Friday nights in the Traverse City area. And they are still memorable and fun. In the summer the stadium is used for National Cherry Festival band competition. The stadium is adjacent to the Glen Loomis Elementary School.