Among all of the sites in Proctor, the facility that likely best proves the power and possibility of reinvention in the community is Missabe Athletic Field, which has seen multiple iterations and names – including C.E. Carlson Park, Terry Egerdahl Memorial Field, and the Proctor Regional Recreation Area – in its 90-year history.
The creation of Missabe Athletic Park was originally the result of a long-felt need for outdoor recreation facilities in the Proctor community. Early editions of the Duluth News-Tribune confirm early echoes of this desire. An article published in 1911 notes, “Like all railroad towns, Proctor is a good railroad town. The Proctor Athletic association has furnished the town with fine exhibitions of baseball. New grounds have been secured and the association plans to make a park that will compare favorably with any.”
Although the facility came nearly 20 years later in 1927, the Missabe Athletic Field was highly welcomed by the Proctor community. It was also highly celebrated. Upon the completion of the field in 1927, then-DM&N President W.A. McGonagle invited all DM&N employees to the park in dedication of the new facilities.
Slated as the first annual Duluth, Missabe & Northern Railroad’s employee picnic, the event brought railroad workers and their families totaling 2,500 in special trains from Coleraine, Duluth, Hibbing, and Virginia to join all Proctor residents in celebration of the new field. Presented as one of the best in the state, the park facilities included a tile-drained ball diamond and a new, covered wooden grandstand with a seating capacity of over 1,000.
Of course, the value of this state-of-the-art field was not lost on the Proctor community, even after the big dedication event and picnic had come and gone.
Following regular use through the ’30s and ’40s, the DM&IR Employees’ Association renamed the recreation area in 1955 to Charles E. Carlson Memorial Park. The namesake, Charles Edwin Carlson, was a long-time DM&N-turned-DM&IR employee who was elected president of the Railroad when McGonagle passed away in 1930. Serving in the post until his retirement in 1944, he was once described as “the embodiment of the American Dream” for his rags-to-riches story as an immigrant child who advanced himself through hard work. The renaming of the field came shortly after his death in 1954.
The field was renamed once again in 1981 to Terry Egerdahl Memorial Field. The new namesake, Terry Egerdahl, was an award-winning three-sport athlete at Proctor High School before he continued his athletic career at the University of Minnesota Duluth and then shortly with the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears. He returned home to Proctor in 1977 and served the next three years as a football, basketball, and baseball coach, as well as Proctor’s community education director. During this time, he also was involved in a project to renovate Proctor’s football field, which was then still a part of C.E. Carlson Park. In December of 1980, Egerdahl was warming up to play a pick-up basketball game when he collapsed and died from a heart attack. He was 27 years old.
When the refurbished athletic field was completed the next year, it was dedicated in Egerdahl’s name, with a wooden entrance gate reading “Terry Egerdahl Memorial Field.” This gate overlooked the field for 25 years, seeing an amateur baseball team called the Proctor Padres, and numerous high school and community sports leagues, utilize the field before it was replaced by the current metal sign on the football field press box.
In 2012, following the unexpected passing of head football coach Dave Hylla, the new entrance and convenience building was erected in Hylla’s honor.
In the end, proving the power and possibility of reinvention in the worthy name of community and remembrance, Missabe Athletic Field, C.E. Carlson Park, Terry Egerdahl Memorial Field, and the Proctor Regional Recreation Area come together through time to act as an important community cornerstone, no matter the name.