Alumni return for recreational game to ‘test run’ new, lighted soccer field

By Louis Hoglund

Stadium lights shined for the first time at the “David Brown Soccer Field” in Pelican Rapids on August 7.

Bright lights ushered in a new era for Pelican Rapids soccer, and the occasion was celebrated much like soccer started in Pelican Rapids about a quarter-century ago: With a “pick-up” game by a bunch of guys from the neighborhood. 

The switch was flipped August 7, illuminating “David Brown Field,” as two teams of “oldtimers” from the earliest days of soccer played a recreational game—under the lights. 

Referee for the game was David Brown himself, who was a key figure in the development of soccer in Pelican; he himself a soccer player in his youth, attending school internationally, and graduating in England from a military base school.

“Street soccer” is how Brown described the young players back in the late 1990s. Most of them from Mexican families and recent arrivals to Pelican. 

“They all played soccer, but it was pick-up games…there was no organized soccer,” said Brown. “Individually, we played head and shoulders above most in the region. But we had to work hard to instill a sense of team.” 

It all started with a “loosely organized” youth squad, playing basically as a “club team.” Pelican teacher-coach at the time, Michelle Grinstead, took on the coaching, with Brown as “field manager” and assistant, since he had played the game but didn’t have a coaching background. A big part of Brown’s tasks was mowing the primitive soccer field. 

That has all changed since those early years, starting back about 1999, to a lighted field, grandstands, scoreboard, picnic shelter, and well-groomed grounds in 2022. 

By 2000, the Pelican youth team placed second in the statewide Schwann’s tournament. In 2012, a combined squad of Pelican and Detroit Lakes players took first in the Schwann’s Cup event. 

Many of the guys from that period reunited for the “alumni game” Aug. 7—which included a countdown, as the flip was switched shortly after 8 p.m.

Brown refereed the fun game, announcing with a laugh that regulation time would be 20 to 25 minutes, “depending on how many heart attacks we have.” 

On the field were Pelican players spanning about the first 15 years of organized soccer in the community, from about 1999 to 2015. 

The day of soccer on Aug. 7, included a Pelican Rapids United Soccer Association league championship game. The league included ten teams who competed every Sunday this summer, including one Fergus Falls area team and two from the Fargo-Moorhead area. It was a Fargo-based team, the OC Stars, winning the Pelican league crown—defeating the Pelican Warriors 4-1. 

More than $125,000 in enhancements have transformed the Brown Field into a top-notch soccer facility. The improvements included stadium lights and grandstand seating, acquired at a fraction of the cost from the former Red Horse Arena equine facility in rural Fergus Falls. The soccer association raised nearly $100,000 toward the combined improvements.