HUNTINGTON, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) – Huntington County Community Schools is initiating a legal fight, hoping to lock down ownership rights to the land where Huntington North High School plays its home football games.
It’s a dispute related to a property agreement dating back almost 100 years.
When the Huntington North Vikings burst through a banner for homes games on Friday nights they do so at Kriegbaum Field.
John and Anna Kriegbaum donated the land way back in 1927.
The deed was turned over to the public school system of that day to be used as an athletic field.
Because, among other things, it is separated from the high school by a busy road, there’ve been discussions about giving the teams a new place to play.
That original agreement laid out if the school corporation stopped using the land for athletics, it was to be returned to the grantors or their heirs.
“There’s a cloud over the property with the reverter clause that was part of the original document,” said Randy Harris, the superintendent for Huntington County Community Schools.
HCCSC officials maintain the land is now theirs, and that the corporation isn’t bound to give it back anymore, no matter what it’s used for.
Lawyers for the school system have filed suit seeking sole control of the land, which is located a short distance off U.S. 24 in Huntington.
“On the advice of counsel, we don’t believe that restriction is still valid and enforceable, but because it’s in the chain of title it needs to be removed, so that we have clear title to the property,” said HCCSC Board President Matt Roth.
The Huntington Herald-Press reports that at a January school board meeting, 81-year old John Kriegbaum addressed the board, disputing the move by the corporation, asking board members to respect his grandfather’s wishes and reserve the property for athletic purposes.
We weren’t able to contact anyone connected to the Kriegbaum family.
Are school officials concerned at all that there might be a backlash from the community about what action they’re trying to take?
“I think whenever you involve the courts in anything there is a concern just how that will play out in the media and in the public,” Roth said.
But Roth went on to say, “This truly has nothing to do with a particular family, other than that they happen to be related to the family that donated the property 90 plus years ago.”
About 20 potential Kriegbaum heirs have been directly notified of the suit and a legal notice will be published multiple times in the local newspaper.
At the time of this report, no court dates had been set.
Huntington County school officials insist there are no immediate plans to move the teams to other locations, or to sell the land for profit.