116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - Golf and tennis aren't going to be much of a problem. Soccer appears now as if it will work out fine.
There's some question as to exactly how track and field might look and work, but its location seems secure.
Then there's baseball. That one's completely up in the air.
'It's another chance for us to be problem solvers,” Iowa High School Athletic Association Executive Director Tom Keating said.
Keating and his cohorts have had a ton of practice with that during the COVID-19 pandemic. Iowa was the first state to resume prep sports competition last summer with baseball and softball after all 2020 spring sports were canceled.
Spring sports all are full go this year, with practices underway. Though nothing has been officially announced, the IHSAA seems to have most of its ducks in a row in regards to the respective sports and their championships.
Keating said the IHSAA expects to use Cownie Park in Des Moines for its state soccer tournament later this spring. Its availability had been in question because of local capacity limits brought upon by COVID.
As usual, Drake Stadium will host track and field, it appears, after some initial question about that. What isn't known are any of the specifics of the event: how many days it will run, if it will remain co-ed, if any fans will be allowed to attend.
'Soccer, we believe we have resolved with Cownie Park,” Keating said. 'We'll get to a good place with them. I think initially some of the limitations looked prohibitive, but our conversations lately, we are confident we can play there. That's good news.
'State track, we have a couple of meetings this week with Drake, and we'll know a little bit more. I think the track itself is going to be available. The question is in what format. So we're in discussions with them, and we'll know by the end of the week where we are with that.”
Keating stressed the IHSAA is being open minded.
'It could be anything,” he said. 'May just be a different format than what we are used to. Depending on Drake, there may be capacity limits similar to when we went to the UNI-Dome (for football).
'It's their venue, and we will listen to what they say for capacity limits. We're hanging on there and staying in communication with them.”
Tennis and golf championships are not expected to have any issues. Baseball, however, is a totally different story.
The state baseball tournament is an eight-day event that has been played at Principal Park in Des Moines, but that facility is not available this year in late July because the Triple-A professional Iowa Cubs have a scheduled homestand. Major League Baseball has taken over operations of the minor leagues and has set all 2021 minor league schedules.
The I-Cubs normally would have been able to request being on the road for the eight days of the state tournament but not anymore. Thus, the IHSAA has a quandary.
'That's going to push us out of Principal Park, at least for this year,” Keating said. 'We are looking at all kinds of options. We have reached out to the University of Iowa, the Cedar Rapids Kernels, reached out to Carroll Merchant Park. We have reached out to local high schools in the Des Moines area. We've done a little recon with our advisory committee on some other possible options. Some college fields, etc. But, as you can imagine, the biggest challenge with baseball is seating capacity.”
The Kernels are on the road for all but the first two days of the state tournament but have polititely declined an overture from the IHSAA, saying they cannot make it work. Keating said he spoke with officials at the Prospect Meadows facility outside of Marion but lack of seating is a major issue there.
The IHSAA even looked into the possibility of using the stadium constructed by MLB at the Field of Dreams movie site but that was a hard pass because of the Chicago White Sox-New York Yankees regular season game scheduled there Aug. 12.
'It's a bit of a challenge,” Keating said. 'We're not in crisis mode, by any means, but we are in action mode. We've got to get something pulled together for 2021, then that will give us a bit of time to breathe for 2022 and beyond. We'll see if the I-Cubs are able to work something out somehow, someway, if we can get back there playing, great. If not, if we have to look for a more permanent solution, then we do that.”
Keating said the IHSAA hopes to have a solid plan for state baseball going into its next Board of Control meeting April 21.
'The good news is I think we have a lot of people willing to help out. Whether that's high schools or places like Merchant Park in Carroll. There are some places that have said ‘Well, let us know,'” he said. 'The problem is the real challenge is we've done this tournament over eight days. To lock in one location for eight days, with the kind of schedule we run, from sun up to stars up, that is tough.
'We're looking at any or all options, in terms of one site, multiple sites. The big thing is we want to provide a great experience for the kids who are playing. And we want to see if we can accommodate the fans that want to come to the games.
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