Roberts Stadium A Shell of Its Former Self – Literally
If you haven't driven east on the Lloyd in some time, you may be shocked by what you see.
Unlike some of my west side brothers and sisters, I don't mind heading to the east side to shop, grab some food, or whatever, but when I do head that way from my house on the north side, I generally will head in the "back way" by taking Morgan Avenue and avoiding the Lloyd altogether. So it had been a minute since I had driven past Roberts Stadium. Needless to say, as I went over the Boeke Road overpass on the way to lunch at Moe's (best burritos in town, by the way) with a buddy of mine from the station the other day, I was a little taken aback by what I saw.
Gone were the bricks that formed the walls of the stadium, the interior completely gutted, and nothing left standing than the iron frame they were once attached to. It resembled more of an archaeological dig after they discovered the spine of a dinosaur than it did a stadium that housed countless basketball games, monster truck shows, Hadi Shrine Circus', and concerts by everyone from Garth Brooks and Kenny Chesney to Marilyn Manson and Slipknot.
I have several memories from Roberts Stadium. Most notably, it was where I saw my first of many concerts (Metallica, March 1992). I stood on the floor on a few occasions as the guest ring master for the Hadi Shrine Circus and rode around in a clown car as part of the parade of performers each of those times.
One of my most memorable (and nerve-racking) moments at Roberts took place years ago when it was the site of the annual NCAA Divsion II, GLVC tournament (USI, the University of Indianapolis, and such). At the time, our stations had a deal where we would provide one jock for each game to host the halftime festivities. I'm not sure how I managed to draw the game, but somehow I was to host the halftime party during the USI versus Kentucky Wesleyan match-up, which, for those that don't know is an intense rivalry in the area with USI being located here in Evansville and KW sitting over in Owensboro.
During this particular season, both teams were playing really well and had a legit shot at winning not only the GLVC, but advancing deep within the Division II tournament that would follow. I don't know that I've ever seen Roberts Stadium as packed as it was that night. Every seat had a person in it from floor to ceiling. The left hand side filled with USI fans decked out in their red, white, and blue school colors. The right side equally filled with KW fans displaying their purple and white with pride.
I always get a little nervous before I step out in front of any crowd. I pace back and forth going over what I'm going to say in my head time and time again. I feel like I have to pee when I don't, and for reasons I don't understand, I get the yawns. Once I get the microphone in my hand, I'm fine, like a baby who gets its pacifier. This night was different. The fans were loud, exploding in cheers when their team scored, or boos when they felt the ref missed a call. All I could think was that all nine or ten thousand of those people would be staring at me in just a few minutes.
Truth be told, I don't even remember what the game was I hosted that night (I think it had something to do with winning a new truck), nor do I remember if things went OK (I don't have any emotional scars, so I'll assume it did). I just remember being in awe of the sea of humanity that surrounded me.
As the saying goes, "Nothing lasts forever" (at least I think it's a saying. If not, it is now), and now I look forward to creating new memories at The Ford Center. A few of which I've already done like taking my kids to their (and my) first hockey game, or taking my son to his first monster truck show. At the risk of sounding like a total cheeseball, Roberts Stadium may be nearly gone, but the memories it created will last a lifetime.