Ed Widseth Field - Supt. Olson, Chancellor Holz-Clause ‘talking’

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    Could Crookston Pirate football and, yes, even Pirate track and field, end up competing at Ed Widseth Field on the UMN Crookston campus for many years to come, after all?

    It’s possible.

    UMN Crookston Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause and Crookston School District Superintendent Jeremy Olson have discussed the possibility of that happening, but Olson stressed to the Times Wednesday that there is much “due diligence” for the district to work through before anything is ready to be presented to a wider audience for consideration.

    “I wouldn’t necessarily say we are in talks, but (Holz-Clause) and I have talked about it,” Olson said. “We need to walk through (the Ed Widseth Field facility), we would have questions and concerns that would need to be addressed, and we would need to have input from legal counsel and make sure we do all of our due diligence. We’re not ready to bring anything forward to anyone.”

    In a periodic campus-wide e-update from Holz-Clause on Tuesday, she said UMN Crookston is “investigating a 20-year use agreement/leasing opportunity” with the school district at Ed Widseth Field. “The Crookston School District has been a leasing partner with us for many years for this facility, but not to the extent we are discussing now,” the chancellor continues in the e-update.

    For many years, Pirates and Golden Eagles football each played their home games at Ed Widseth Field as part of an agreement between the University and school district that included cost-sharing for various improvements, etc. But the University, which has no track and field program, had been hesitant to invest large sums of money in upgrading the track, which the Minnesota State High School League a couple years ago deemed unfit to host prep track and field meets. The Pirates haven’t officially hosted an actual “home” meet since, instead using the East Grand Forks School District’s track and field facilities for “home” meets.

    When UMN Crookston ended its Golden Eagles football program after the 2019 season, Holz-Clause said the school district would be welcome to use Ed Widseth Field for Pirate football for five more years. With the clock ticking, the Crookston School Board several weeks ago targeted November 2021 for a referendum to ask school district voters to approve the addition of a Pirate football and track and field facility immediately to the north of Crookston High School. At that time, Olson said the next step would be to form a committee composed of a cross-section of district residents, similar to the process that resulted in the construction of a new bus garage/transportation facility, to come up with the best but also most common-sense and affordable plan for a new football and track and field facility at the high school.

    In the e-update, Holz-Clause says a longer lease would give the school district more “ownership” and “responsibility” for maintenance of the Ed Widseth Field facilities, including the “specific caveat” that the school district update the track, which the chancellor goes on to say is “potentially a cost-effective solution for the district rather than build(ing) their own complex.”

    Holz-Clause also stresses in the e-update that Golden Eagles athletic teams would still be able to use the Ed Widseth Field facility for training, or for any needs related to the use of concessions and the restrooms by UMN Crookston’s baseball, softball and soccer teams, with their fields nearby.