Anyone who attended the drenched Oct. 5 homecoming football game between the Brainerd Warriors and Bemidji Lumberjacks at Adamson Field would probably agree it’s time.
Time for Brainerd School District 181 to upgrade its lower site, including installation of synthetic turf on the football field, reconstruct the track around the field and reconstruct the tennis courts.
The lower site (the district’s football field, track and tennis courts) was built in 1975 and is situated on a swamp.
The base on which the football field, track and tennis courts sit has not been removed or replaced since it was installed almost 40 years ago. The district has done routine maintenance and repairs during that time.
The football field was a swamp Oct. 5. It had been pelted by rain for a few days before the game and during the game. Conditions were despicable, particularly on the south half of the field where there was more mud than grass.
It’s a wonder a player wasn’t seriously injured. And, I was surprised that players were able to perform at such a high level in the mud.
Those conditions prompted the Oct. 10 move of Brainerd’s sophomore football game to Harvey Shew Field behind Franklin Arts Center.
Adamson Field isn’t likely to recover this fall with at least two varsity games remaining. It will be virtually unplayable.
The field’s natural grass has a shallow root structure that can’t withstand the impact of competitive events. It’s torn up in chunks. Poor soil and drainage of the field contribute to the problem.
The track and tennis courts are in dire need of attention.
Warrior track and field coaches are reluctant to host meets because of the track’s deteriorating condition. The original asphalt base layer has eroded, causing the asphalt pad to crack and shift and there are uneven spots. Water seepage from the top and under the base layer is causing the rubber surface to peel away from the asphalt base. The surface is becoming as hard as asphalt, which hurts runners’ legs.
This spring, Brainerd was scheduled to host the North Subsection 8-2A tennis tournament but it had to be moved to Forestview Middle School in Baxter because of cracks in the courts. The original base layer has eroded under the asphalt pad, causing large cracks in the playing surface and the net posts to heave and move. Annual maintenance costs are significant to keep the courts playable. Court 3 is often referred to as “The Lake” because of the amount of water that can stand on the court.
Here’s a situation Brainerd must avoid: Fergus Falls voters recently defeated an outdoor facility improvement project. After it failed, an engineering study revealed a defect in bleacher support beams, forcing the school district to close the bleachers and press box until structural improvements are made.
Something has to be done in Brainerd. It costs about $700,000 more to include synthetic turf in the project than to continually attempt to maintain a field with a horrible surface and drainage that might be worse.
If the lower site was a school building, it likely would have been condemned and replaced years ago.
Installation of synthetic turf and reconstruction of the track and tennis courts makes economic sense in the long run and it’s more than just for high school sports. Community members can run on the track and play tennis.
Synthetic turf can be used almost year round by physical education classes. Soccer games could be played on it under the existing lights. Several other teams could practice on it. Brainerd could host section tournaments, generating a new revenue stream.
Something must be done. Brainerd should join the ranks of forward-thinking outstate school districts like Esko, Kasson-Mantorville, Sauk Centre and Morris that have installed synthetic turf.
Brainerd teams and community members shouldn’t have to play on surfaces and use outdoor athletic facilities that are unsafe and outdated.
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.