BANKIE'S HOT TAKE #35 - Denny Stadium
On the 4th of July, I was actually in South River for the first time in ages.
Having been a resident of the town for over 30 years, there are a few institutions I like to frequent. Obviously, Riddle and Martin for the phenomenal subs, the Krauser’s on Main Street, where I frequently look for the old Thirsty’s sign, and Bissetts Pond, where I used to be a dumb kid and do backyard wrestling with my friends.
However, there is no bigger feeling of home than Denny Stadium on David Street.
Oh, Denny Stadium.
The home of South River Rams football, Denny Stadium has been around for over eight decades, at the minimum. Named after famed South River football coach Bill Denny, who coached the team from 1927 to 1961, the stadium hosted legendary football games and athletes, such as Joe Theisman, Drew Pearson, Kenny Jackson, Alex Wojciechowicz, Zack Earvin, and others.
I’m old enough to remember the retired numbers on the outside of the stadium, including Theismann, Pearson, Jackson, and Stout (who’s first name always escapes me), and, for a few weeks immediately after the September 11 attacks, a handmade Christopher Dincuff banner.
When I went to South River High School from 1999 to 2003, Denny Stadium hosted some of the best football teams in school history, including the undefeated 2001 Central Jersey Group 1 State Championship unit. The field was never more packed.
Hell, in 2004, I had the honor of being the PA announcer of the South River Rams, working alongside Art Londensky, Phil Hill, and the immortal Fred Roselli.
Denny Stadium was not just home to football. The track team hosted some phenomenal runners, including the long distance dominance of Iuri Pinto, Bart Bancewicz, and Ben Harder. Also, there were countless Fourth of July firework celebrations, high school graduations, National Night Outs, and other events.
That venue was more than just the home of games and events; Denny Stadium was a South River institution.
Last year, I learned that Denny Stadium was in danger of being condemned, due to safety regulations and the stadium being at the “end of its life cycle”. After a few failed referendums not being passed over the past few years to have taxpayers fund repairs and modernizing the stands, the seating area would officially be set up to be taken down by the Spring of 2023.
I had to take a drive past the stadium just to get one last glance of it at its present state.
It looked the same as it always did. Same gray with maroon trim color scheme. Same wooden setup. Same “RAM” on the outside of the press box. However, it was fenced up and locked at every available entrance. A set of portable risers were in the middle of the football field, most likely for graduation a few weeks ago. A brand new scoreboard was in place by the end zone.
It felt like the beginning of a transition and the end of an era.
I know the track and field will be there for the foreseeable future, but for the Stadium itself, it’s truly becoming a relic of the past.
Denny Stadium is a special place near and dear to my heart. It gave South River, in my opinion, a piece of identity. You felt the legacy and the history whenever you would come near it. Maybe it’s my sentimental nature, but I loved that place.
In the next few years, we will see what the next steps are as it comes to how South River will handle that land. Will there be a private investor that puts money into building a new one? Could the town and townspeople come to a comfortable solution that would raise funds to a massive upgrade? Hell, will the Board of Education put the money down for this? These are all questions that will be answered eventually. I just hope whatever happens, it will be a place where new memories are made.
Until then, I salute Denny Stadium. Thanks for the memories and thanks for making South River the one thing I always try to look at whenever I come back to town:
PS: Jon Harder helped in this article, too.