History

The original land was leased to William A. “Pa” Ratcliffe from sisters Ella and Anna Ware.  William then provided the land to the school district for an athletic field, free of charge.  The first contest on the field was a South Haven High School baseball game against Gobles (then called Gobleville) on April 28, 1916. 

The first football game was held in October 1916 against Benton Harbor High School.  SHHS’s coach that year was none other than Mr. Lloyd C. Mohr, who went on to become the district’s superintendent from 1920-1955 and for whom the high school is now named.  After the 1916 season, the district was not able to have a football team due to farm work, illness, and World War I.  The next football season would occur in 1919. 

The track team’s first meet on the new cinder track was held on June 1, 1917 as part of the Van Buren County Field Day.  As many as 25,000 spectators watched track meets in the morning and baseball games in the afternoon.  Many local businesses and professionals across the county agreed to close their offices on those afternoons so that they and their employees could attend these events. 

In 1926, William Ratcliffe purchased the land from the Ware sisters and then sold it to the school district for “$1 and other valuable considerations.”  After the purchase, the field was remodeled along with the facilities and rededicated on October 10, 1930 during a football game against St. Joseph.  That team was coached by Coach Baer, for whom Baer Park at the corner of Center & Superior streets is dedicated.  The Class of 1929 donated the gate columns and fencing for the entire field, having raised over $3,500 for the project.

South Haven music legend Michael Listiak joined the SHHS faculty in 1930.   He would go on to build up the marching band program significantly until his 1962 retirement.  The marching band would perform at every home football game on Ratcliffe Field.  However, it was another SHHS band director, Bob Boerma, who would coin the term "Purple Pride Marching Band" in the mid-1980's.  The SHHS marching band has been referred to as the Purple Pride ever since.

Lights were added and installed by the City of South Haven in 1940.  The first contest under these lights was played by the baseball team in the spring of 1941, and the football team enjoyed its first lighted game that fall.  This was one of the first school facilities with lights in Southwest Michigan.

In 1945, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Arkins donated money for a fieldhouse to be constructed on the property in memory of their son, Richard “Dick” Dean Arkins, who was killed serving in the Armed services in WWII.  The Arkins Fieldhouse was completed in 1950 containing locker rooms, storage areas, restrooms, showers, a training room, coaches’ offices, and a memorial room dedicated to all South Haven residents who have given their lives in service to our country.

In 1976, the district remodeled the facilities again.  The cinder track was replaced with an all-weather track.  The baseball diamond was relocated to Ben Suhr Field next to the high school, and the bleachers were replaced.  The press box was moved to the west side of the field, and storage was built beneath the bleachers.

In 1999, the facilities were updated to a modern arena for football, soccer, and track.  The tennis courts were removed to provide more parking.  Underground sprinkling was added and the track resurfaced.  The current concession stand was constructed along with the Wall of Tradition and Ram plaza.  Arkins Fieldhouse was updated and landscaping was added.  A new press box and remodeled bleachers were installed in 2000.  The 1999-2000 renovations were made possible by The Friends of Ratcliffe Field, a community group who raised the $500,000 necessary for the project.

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2017 West Corporation. All rights reserved.