Football Stadiums: East Ascension High School

Football stadiums in downtown metropolitan areas have become a thing of the past, with a few exceptions.  The Chicago Bears have played at Soldier Field on Lake Shore Drive since 1971 and moved from another downtown facility in Wrigley Field, where the Chicago Cubs play baseball, since 1921.  Soldier Field became an iconic sight in Chicago, so much so that within its aged structure, they built a new stadium within the outer iconic structure of Soldier Field.

The Boston Patriots, now the New England Patriots, played their games at Boston University, Harvard University, and Fenway Park, all of which are in the greater Boston, Massachusetts, Metropolitan area.  However, they built a new stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, a bedroom community halfway between Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, in 1971.  Then, they constructed an all-new stadium, Gillette Stadium, in 2002, compounding their commitment to outlying areas and being a regional team.

The attraction to a downtown football stadium is alive and well in Gonzales, Louisiana, for the East Ascension Spartans, who play their games right in the heart of downtown Gonzales.  Gonzales is a bedroom community to Baton Rouge.  The Gonzales community calls itself the “Jambalaya Capital of the World” and is known for the annual Jambalaya Festival.  On Friday nights during football season, Gonzales is “All In” with its football, serving up lots of jambalaya, dirty rice, fried seafood, and your typical stadium hamburgers and hotdogs to over 5,000 football fans.

The Spartans’ football program, which filled the East Ascension High School stadium with fans, began in 1966 with Coach Schexnaydre, who, six years later, won a district title and laid the foundation for the stadium’s reality today.  Back in 1966, the team played on a natural grass field, whereas today, the team plays on a state-of-the-art synthetic turf field.

The stadium has seen the likes of players like Glenn Dorse, a defensive lineman, who was High School All-State and went on to play at LSU, where he was a two-time All-American and SEC defensive player of the year.  He finished ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting and was the fifth selection in the first round by the Kansas City Chiefs.  It has also seen players like Andrew “Poncho,” who played tight end, went on to play at Grambling State University, and played professional football for the Los Angeles Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, and New Orleans Saints.  Many more notable players have run north and south on the stadium turf, whether natural or synthetic.

The East Ascension High School stadium, located in downtown Gonzales, Louisiana, may not be surrounded by skyscrapers or sit next to a Great Lake, and they have no ambition to build a new stadium outside of the friendly confines of downtown Gonzales.  This stadium is a key element to the town of Gonzales and the people who live an everyday life there.  These people are the guardians of this life and the football Friday nights.  They stand as strong pillars of tradition and community spirit, forming an unshakable bond to the community and the stadium.  The football players and fans will all tell you that “Once a Spartan, Always a Spartan!”