Quest for the Best: No. 4 -- Polson, 'You can't beat the view'

Flathead Lake, Mission Mountains give Polson's football field one of Montana's most scenic backdrops
2014-08-06T19:15:00Z 2014-08-28T00:20:04Z Quest for the Best: No. 4 -- Polson, 'You can't beat the view'By SLIM KIMMEL skimmel@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

POLSON -- Mike Ludwig took his Laurel football team to Polson for a Class A quarterfinal playoff game in 2012.

Ludwig stood on the field during warm-ups and momentarily lost himself in the scenic view of Flathead Lake and the Mission Mountains, almost forgetting he had a game to play. He hasn’t been the only one.

Polson’s football stadium, which hosted its first game in the early 2000s, sits behind the school on a hill overlooking town and the lake to the northeast.

“I remember before the first game, I brought the kids up and I had them facing the lake and they were all looking at the view,” recalled Scott Wilson, the Pirates’ football coach and athletic director since 2001. “I said, ‘Now, this is the reason I brought you up here, is because if we don’t perform well on Friday night that’s what everybody else is going to be looking at.’”

Indeed, it is a beautiful view — many have argued Flathead Lake is one of the most scenic places in the country — but the excellence of Polson’s facility extends beyond nature’s designs.

The well-maintained field, which runs northeast to southwest, is large enough for soccer games, while still fitting within a 10-lane track that encircles the grass surface. The permanent grandstands can seat upwards of 1,000 people and are located on the southeast sideline, so fans have the lake and mountains as a backdrop.

The school brings in temporary bleachers to increase the seating capacity to about 1,500.

“We always seem to have a great crowd. I think part of that is because when you’re winning, that does breed the fans coming in,” Wilson said, noting attendance might dip when the University of Montana team is playing in Missoula.

The Pirates have had their share of success since opening the new stadium, reaching the playoffs each of the past six years. They have won the Northwestern A in four of those seasons, including 2012 when the Pirates advanced to the semifinals after beating Laurel, 9-7, in the quarterfinal round.

“I think probably one of the big (moments in this stadium) was the playoff game against Laurel,” Wilson said. “It was a great game. Both teams played their hearts out. It was the first time Polson had been to the semifinals since back in the 1980s. That was a big win for us to get us into the semis.”

Whether the Pirates win or lose on the scoreboard, though, Polson can’t be beat.

The Pirates still win, because, at the end of the day, they can walk out on their exquisite field with its fine facilities, look to the north and soak up the impeccable view across Flathead Lake to the Mission Mountains. It’s one of the best views, if not the best, Montana has to offer.

“When we have visitors, that’s one of the first things they say: ‘Boy, you guys have a beautiful stadium, beautiful view.’ It’s tough to not get caught in the moment,” Wilson said. “You can’t beat the view.”

Correction: Havre’s Blue Pony Stadium, profiled last week, was constructed in 1929 and has been the home of Havre High School football ever since. Montana State Northern has played at Blue Pony Stadium over the years, but the high school has always owned and operated the field.

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