By Tim Marsh, Lakes High School Class of 1966
Thompson Field. Lakewood Stadium. Harry Lang Stadium.
Three names, one football venue in Lakewood at Clover Park High School.
The Clover Park School District was created in 1928. Ten years later, due to the rapid expansion of Fort Lewis, Clover Park High School was established with the cornerstone of the original school laid June 28, 1938.
A photo (above) taken in 1939 on the Clover Park campus shows four people, including Walter J. Thompson and Arthur Hudtloff, district superintendent.
Thompson holds a copy of the notes he will use to deliver a speech on May 17, 1939, when the athletic field at Clover Park High School is dedicated in his name.
According to information with the photo, Thompson donated the initial $1,000 to get the field project started. The field was completed as a project of WPA, an acronym for the federal Works Progress Administration, a Depression era work-relief program.
One source says the field was a memorial to Thompson. In reality, it was dedicated in honor of Thompson, not in memory of him. He was still alive. However, just a bit more than 14 months after the dedication, on Aug. 3, 1940, he died at age 87 in Lakewood.
Who was Walter James Thompson?
He was a social and civic leader, Lakewood visionary, Tacoma banker, financier, Gravelly Lake pioneer, philanthropists, and, according to Legendary Locals of Lakewood, an “audacious businessman.”
Born in Spring Prairie, Wisc., in 1853, he was a successful banker and attorney in Nebraska before coming to the Tacoma in 1884. He bought the Bank of New Tacoma and changed its name to Merchants National Bank. He also founded Tacoma Savings Bank.
He had a home in Tacoma and homes in Lakewood. One source says he eventually moved out of the Tacoma house to one on Gravelly Lake. He also was owner of the historic Boatman-Ainsworth, the oldest private structure in Lakewood.
According to the History of Tacoma, the Tacoma home of Thompson and his wife, Amaryllis Thompson (1850-1933), was frequented by intellectuals and progressives including Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and Susan B. Anthony, social reformer and women’s rights advocate.
The Thompsons were known for their personal library and collection of paintings.
Thompson owned the Boatman–Ainsworth house from 1889-1939. He donated a portion property on which the house was located to Clover Park. The portion is the location of Thompson Field, today’s Harry Lang Stadium.
A Lakewood historical marker – placed by the Lakewood Historical Society, the Lakewood Landmarks & Heritage Board and the City of Lakewood – is near the house which is near Harry Lang Stadium.
Thompson served a variety social and civic roles. He was a benefactor and key player in the newly established Tacoma Public Library and, in the 1880s, its president for several years.
In 1888, he was a delegate to the Republican national convention and went on to serve in Washington Territorial lower house and Senate, where he was an active promoter of progressive agenda items including women’s suffrage.
In 1912, he quit the Republican party and joined the Progressive party — nicknamed the “Bull Moose Party” — created by former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.
The Spokane Chronicle in 1916 said he was a “well-known bull moose” of Pierce County. In that year, he ran for the U.S. Senate as the Progressive candidate.
So, in 1939 Thompson Field was built and dedicated at Clover Park High School. It was the home venue of Clover Park varsity football games. When Lakes High School opened in 1962, it became the venue of Lakes varsity football home games, too.
But, time marched on and eventually there was need for a modernized stadium. That resulted with upgrading in about 1984-1985 of Thompson Field and renaming it Lakewood Stadium.
On Aug. 21, 2001, Harry E. Lang died at age 83. He was a dedicated coach, teacher, principal, administrator and later a school-board member and board president in the Clover Park School District. He served the community for more than 50 years.
In September 2001, the Clover Park School Board approved a resolution to rename the facility to Harry E. Lang Stadium, said the TNT.
On Oct. 26, 2001, before a Clover Park vs. Lakes football game, Lakewood Stadium was renamed and dedicated in honor of Lang.
–Thompson’s business dealings included selling homes on Lake Steilacoom and Gravelly Lake.
–According to the Seattle Times, the change of the stadium name from Lakewood to Harry Lange “reduced confusion with the 2A school north of Everett named Lakewood.” In the late 1950s (early 1960s?), Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone changed Lakewood’s telephone prefix from LAkewood to JUniper. One of the reasons? Because there was sometimes confusion between Lakewood (Pierce Co.) and Lakewood (north of Everett in Snohomish Co.)
–Before Clover Park High School existed, students from Lakewood apparently attended Tacoma’s Stadium High School.
–This story focuses on football. But the field featured has been and is the home of track & field, too. Thompson Field (with real grass) had a five laps to a mile cinder track. Today’s Harry Lang Stadium has an artificial turf football field and a four laps to 400m synthetic all-weather track.
–During the author’s years (1963-1966) as a Lakes High student, initially when the Lancers played football on Clover Park’s Thompson Field, scoreboard signage proc
–Sources for this story include first and foremost the amazing Lakewood history books by Steve Dunkelberger and Walter Neary: “Images of America: Lakewood” (2005) and “Legendary Locals of Lakewood” (2014). Other sources include, but are not limited to, liquidsearch.com, Seattle Times, Seattle P-I, gridironbeez.proboards.com, Wikipedia, historylink.com, Longview Daily News, TNT/Tacoma News Tribune, Southsoundtalk.com and Spokane Daily Chronicle, Tacoma Public Library, the Lakewood Log , a National Register of Historic Places nomination form, “History of Tacoma” and politicalgraveyard.com