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Football field conditions a concern for March

NEW ULM — When the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) shuffled high school sports seasons around in Minnesota in an attempt to keep all sports seasons going, one of the sports that saw a definite change was high school football that was moved from the fall to the early spring.

And one of the concerns that has come up with spring football is the availability of fields for football.

Namely in what kind of condition will some football fields be — namely the grass ones — just after a typical Minnesota winter.

New Ulm High School Activities Director Troy Guentzel said that there are really two concerns with the spring football.

“What we know from the (MSHSL) is that they are planning on having a spring season in what I am referring to as ‘spring-ish’ — that March until the middle of May — and the biggest complication is going to be for the majority of schools is where is that sandwiched between a winter season and a normal spring season and the normal break for kids from between activities,” Guentzel said.

But there is a more pressing issue for a majority of schools — a place to play football right after a Minnesota winter with frozen fields covered with snow and ice.

That is not an issue for New Ulm High School.

“From a facilities standpoint we are very fortunate to have a turf football field,” he said. “And schools that do not have turf are looking for a place to practice — being inside all of the time — but what is nice for us is that we will have the ability to clear the turf and once it is clear with that sun and snow melt, we should be fine. Plus the turf is softer than the ground.”

He said that he does not know what that will mean for schools that do not have a turf field?

“I do not know but we have been contacted by I would say a few schools in the [Big South] Conference and some area schools asking if we do have spring football can we get on your field and our answer is yes, that we would love to have you but when, we do not know and what does it look like, I do not know,” he said.

Guentzel said that the most common thing that people will hear from Activity Directors this year is “I don’t know.”

Guentzel said that there are naysayers who are saying that the MSHSL has put (football) in an almost impossible season.

“Almost as if they don’t think it will happen. And then you have people like myself that are trying to remain optimistic and say we will take what we can get and be happy with what we can get because anything is better than not having a season at all and not having an opportunity for the kids.”

And the spring football has also raised some concerns with Tom Schmitz, the Park and Rec Director in New Ulm and specifically Johnson Field that is used by both New Ulm Cathedral and Minnesota Valley Lutheran.

“There could be extra costs related to field preparation and field repairs and we would have a discussion with them sometime this winter prior to the season,” Schmitz said.

“One of the concerns that I have is that that would end up ripping up Johnson Field and I do not know how soon they are going to want us on that field,” Minnesota Valley Lutheran Activities Director Craig Morgan said. “And if that is the case we would rent from New Ulm High School.”

New Ulm Cathedral Activities Director Alan Woitas also echoed Morgan’s thoughts that if Johnson Field was not in great shape to play on, they would also play at NUHS.

“I am not an expert on playing surfaces but what I do know is potentially there could be damage to the surface for next season for schools that share spaces for other sports,” Guentzel said.

Guentzel said that if both MVL and Cathedral elected to play some football games at NUHS, he said they would love to have them.

“This is a community field. And what is Martin Luther College planning to do — they use our field during the spring time. We love having teams come but it is a matter of how does it work for scheduling.”

Guentzel said that so far he has received inquiries from “about two handful” of schools regarding spring football games.

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