Many factors can indicate a strong sense of community. At Hill-Murray School, it’s the fact that their new stadium, Mary, Queen of Victory, was built entirely from donations.
The school, well-known for its academic rigor, hasn’t had a competitive sports facility since, well, ever, says president and alumnus Jim Hansen. When the school was formed by the 1971 merger of Archbishop Murray Memorial High School and Hill High School, there were no athletic facilities. So, in the summer of 1973, the athletes built the field, he says, and “the faculty laid out the track. The problem is that they didn’t lay it out correctly. It was a little short. So that first year there were a lot of records.”
They had used that same track and field ever since, the track turning into puddles for days after raining, and the field turning into a mud pit, Hansen says. In the ‘80s, it was limited to use only for varsity teams, and track and field meets had to be moved elsewhere. “It’s always been on the facility committee’s list of things to address, but it’s nonacademic. [So] it was relatively low on the list.”
In the summer of 2015, six individuals from the Hill-Murray community stepped forward and said they’d like to raise the priority of a sports facility to No. 1. “I was brand-new. It was the first decision I had to make as president,” Hansen says. He knew the support in the community was there, so they announced in September that they would be raising money for the $3.6 million project, including a new field and plaza. And the support flooded in.
Mike Roman, Woodbury resident and Hill-Murray parent, was one of those supporters. “At Hill-Murray, we’ve come to appreciate the educational opportunities, and to really make Hill-Murray strong for the future I think creating a strong brand is important,” he says. And that means having facilities that match.
A senior and captain of the varsity lacrosse team, Caroline Cayot of Woodbury says the new field “definitely gives us a lot of pride in our school.” While the old field wasn’t horrible, “sometimes we would joke that the award for MVP defenseman went to Higgins (the field name) because if you weren’t used to running on it, it made you fall quite a bit.”
Everyone is excited about the new complex, she says, and “the fact that it was built by donations beautifully exemplifies the Hill-Murray community.”
Of donations made to get the project started, 40 percent were first-time donors, Hansen says. This amazed the incoming football coach and director of development.
Pete Bercich, former Minnesota Vikings linebacker, started his new positions at Hill-Murray in June, just as construction began. “It was really a whole new group that came up and donated money to the stadium,” he says. “That was exciting.”
As director of development, Bercich will be building and managing the endowment to keep the stadium going. A Notre Dame grad and Catholic high school attendee, Bercich knows how important it is to have a strong sense of community at a private school. “I’m 100 percent dedicated to two things: the endowment and bringing the football team back to what it was.”
And the stadium name? It’s a part of a school tradition. “Teams always say, ‘Mary, Queen of Victory, pray for us,’ and then run out onto the field,” Hansen says. Over the years, it became a school cheer.
For more information on Hill-Murray School, including the Mary, Queen of Victory Stadium, go to their website here.