Tommy Oliver Stadium
(Dedicated to Thomas Edwin Oliver)
Thomas Edwin Oliver was born in Pensacola in 1909 and moved to Panama City in the 1920’s, attending the then, Bay County High School.
A promising athlete from the start, he excelled in football, basketball, baseball, swimming, and more. Upon high school graduation he went to the University of Florida then Catholic University in Washington D.C. where he broke athletic records. He shattered the world recognized collegiate punt record of a kick of 84 yards in the air and a total length of over 100 yards.
His granddaughter, Colleen Morrill says he played professional football for several seasons, and at one point played for the Redskins. After his years of professional football him and his family moved back to Panama City where he was a coach and teacher at Bay High School.
Then World War Two happened and he joined the marines. He was in Okinawa when he was shot by a sniper.
“He received the purple heart for his injuries from his death on June 5th, 1945,” said Oliver’s granddaughter Colleen Morrill.
“He would stand up for people he liked. Instead of taking a position of authority he wanted to be down in the trenches with his people he liked,” said grandson Fred Wilson.
“He would be proud of this I’m sure,” said Wilson of the new Tommy Oliver Stadium.
The Stadium Gets a Face Lift
Every week for months, Steve Moss circled the Tommy Oliver Stadium construction site to check up on progress, how things were moving along and what was changing.
He was there so often, he joked he was like an expectant father, anxious and nervous to see what would arrive and how everything would turn out. The construction crews gave him his own set of plans, basically the stadium’s ultrasound, that he would thumb through periodically. The pages even had his name on them.
As the Bay District School Board Vice Chairman, and possibly the most openly frustrated board member when the stadium’s price tag jumped from $7 million to $12 million early in the construction timeline, Moss said he understood there was a lot riding on the project. They only build this kind of stadium once every half-century, with the original Tommy Oliver Stadium going up back in 1955. And anyone who has spent any amount of time in Bay County understands Tommy Oliver isn’t just a stadium; it’s a community icon, a shrine of memories from students, teachers and athletes past.
After a year-and-a-half of demolition and construction, the new Joe and Jeanette Chapman Field at Tommy Oliver Stadium made its debut, the rubberized Garry Terrell Track of Champions courtesy of the Charles A. Whitehead Foundation, sporting a fresh coat of paint and a newly unfurled American flag blowing in the spring breeze.
The 7,000-seat stadium is “night and day” compared to the old facility, Moss said, with technology “miles above” what the stadium was capable of previously. The state-of-the-art scoreboard has instant-replay technology, high quality zoom, and the capability to play commercials between plays and during halftime, opening up fundraising possibilities for the district’s many booster clubs. Four schools in the district — Mosley, Bay, Rutherford and North Bay Haven High Schools — will call the new Tommy Oliver home, though the first official events held on the field will be graduations.
Now it has become the Home of The Florida Roots.