It seems a bit strange to say it, and, in fact, it might be a stretch. But if there’s one potentially positive thing to come from the decision to end the Golden Eagles football program at the University of Minnesota Crookston, it’s that Crookston School District leaders now know that at some point in the next few years, they’re going to need to construct a Pirate football and track and field facility of their own, on their own property.
Does it amount to a blessing in disguise? No, let’s not go that far. After all, the stone-cold reality is that a lot of people, especially in this particular neck of the woods – hard-working folks and taxpayers – hate to spend more than a few pennies on anything. A new football and track and field facility is going to cost millions of dollars and it’s going to be a challenge for the school district and any potential partners to come up with a financing package that’s not only doable, but acceptable to district residents and, perhaps, district voters.
But at least now, this appears to be a “when” scenario and no longer an “if.” While Superintendent Jeremy Olson says UMN Crookston Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause has indicated that Pirate football is welcome to keep playing at Ed Widseth Field on campus, he said she’s also told him the university is interested in a maximum lease of five years. Would extensions be an option after that? Olson’s not absolutely certain, but he says he gets the feeling that in five years, it’s likely in the district’s best interests to have secured its own facilities.
And, notice that the previous paragraph mentioned only “Pirate football.” Student-athlete participation-wise the largest Pirate athletic program, Pirate track and field has no home, and it hasn’t had a home for a few years. The cracked, bubbling-up track at Ed Widseth Field years ago was deemed by state athletic officials unfit for high school competition, so the Pirates’ “home” meets in recent years have been held in East Grand Forks. It’s just a bad situation that isn’t fair to the dozens of kids who compete for Pirate track and field.
With additional clarity comes a better case for new Pirate football and track and field facilities. While the track-in-disrepair angle is a strong one, no more will proponents of the Pirates having a football field and track to call their own have to hang their hats on complaints about a soaked, muddy field, or the school district somehow getting the short end of the stick in the partnership with UMN Crookston, or there not enough blue and gold paint at Ed Widseth Field compared to all of the maroon and gold.
Clarity is good. School district leaders on this particular subject now appear to have it.