Ron Roberts Field at the Banta Bowl
The Lawrence University football and soccer programs stepped into a new era in the school's athletic program in 2015 with the renovation of the Banta Bowl.
The football/soccer facility at Lawrence would not have been possible without the generosity of George Banta Jr. '10. The Banta Bowl was rededicated after Banta's death in his honor on September 23, 1978. Originally called the Lawrence Bowl, the stadium was an anonymous gift from Banta, one of many he made to Lawrence during his lifetime. The stadium has been renamed Ron Roberts Field at the Banta Bowl to coincide with the renovation of the facility in 2015.
The naming of Ron Roberts Field at the Banta Bowl honors Lawence's legendary football coach and director of athletics, Ron Roberts, at the behest of Tom Rogers '65, who gave the lead gift for the renovation. Rogers was a soccer player who helped establish the program at Lawrence. He also was a student at Lawrence when Ron Roberts began his coaching career in Appleton and was impressed with what Coach Roberts did for the football team.
The campaign to raise $4.5 million for the stadium's renovation was led by co-chairs Dr. Charles McKee '68 and David Blowers '82, who serves on the Lawrence Board of Trustees. Both were standout football players for the Vikings and remain leaders among their peers.
Renovations began with raising and widening the playing field to accommodate a soccer pitch, and the stadium is now home to the men's and women's soccer teams. The natural grass surface was replaced with FieldTurf to allow for more and varied use of the stadium.
The fan experience has been greatly improved with new aluminum grandstand seating, a new LED scoreboard and sound system.
Fans enter Ron Roberts Field at the Banta Bowl through an inviting plaza at the north end of the stadium. The Gilboy Athletic Center houses Lawrence's football locker room, a team room for the visitors, an athletic training room, an officials' room, concessions, ticketing and restrooms. The building was named for Steve '62 and Joan Gilboy, who provided a leadership gift for the stadium renovation. Steve served as a captain of the Lawrence football team and helped launch the Vikings' baseball program.
Construction of the stadium in this location seems like a no-brainer to us now. Looking back, it was nothing short of inspiration in 1965. Appleton is a system of natural ravines, and the Banta Bowl rests comfortably in one of them. The 3,634-seat stadium has its bleachers tucked neatly into the surrounding, tree-lined hillsides. When football and soccer seasons are in full swing, the colors of autumn light up Saturday afternoons in the Banta Bowl, forming a union between the game and the natural beauty surrounding it.
The football teams at Lawrence have embraced the Banta Bowl and made it a home to champions. The Vikings have captured seven of their 16 Midwest Conference titles since moving into the stadium in 1965.
When the stadium opened in 1965, Roberts took over for his first season as head coach. He replaced Bernie Heselton, the legendary coach who led the Vikings from 1938 to 1964. Roberts continued Lawrence’s winning football tradition by capturing back-to-back league titles in 1966 and 1967. Roberts did that one better by winning a trio of titles from 1979 to 1981. Roberts coached from 1965 to 1983 and returned for a single season in 1992. He compiled a record of 121-54-1 in the Banta Bowl.
The Banta Bowl has also been home to numerous local legends. In 1967, Chuck McKee and Gary Hietpas were Lawrence’s first All-Americans to play in the stadium. From that point, a line of All-Americans have streamed onto the Banta Bowl’s turf. Men like Frank Bouressa (1977–78), Paul Gebhardt (1977–78), Scott Reppert (1980–82), Chris Matheus (1980–82), Graham Satherlie (1980–81), Pat Schwanke (1982–83), Murray McDonough (1982–83), Dan Galante (1983–86), Bob Sell (1984–85), Chris Lindfelt (1985–86, ’88), Marty Johnson (1986–87), Steve Jung (1988–89), Damian LaCroix (1989–90) and Brad Olson (1995–96) have all earned multiple All-American honors playing at the Banta Bowl.