Letter to the Editor:  ‘Look at football field/track as investment for the future'

Submitted by Jason Klinnert
Crookston Times

    One of the issues that came up during my campaign for school board last fall was that the Crookston School District needed a new football field and track.  For the past twenty plus years Pirate varsity football games have been played at Ed Widseth field on the campus of UMC.  I am sure at the time the decision was made to move the games from the old football field at Lincoln School to UMC it may have made sense to those who made the decision.   However, something is always lost when ownership is given up of something for convenience or saving money, freedom.  

    Since entering the partnership, or lease of the field at UMC, Crookston Schools would seem to have lost their identity.  When sitting in the bleachers or walking along the track at Ed Widseth field and looking around does one find them sitting or standing at the home of the Pirates or the Golden Eagles?  Despite what the schedule and the scoreboard says, the Crookston Pirates have been truly homeless since the 1990’s.  Paying to play on a field surrounded in colors that are not of their own with only a couple of signs signifying the school’s identity is not only a loss of freedom but also a loss of identity.  

    Years ago, the staff at UMC damaged the track while removing snow from it.  This has been well documented by both KROX and the Crookston Times.  Since then, Crookston High School has not been able to host a track meet.  “Home” meets are held 21 miles away in East Grand Forks again, surrounded by colors not of our own and with no signage.  That is a loss of identity.  Not only can Crookston High School not host home track meets in Crookston, but the high school and the community cannot host Section 8 meets as well.  These meets would bring teams and families from all over western and northwestern MN to our community.  Until we have a track of our own, we lose out.  

    I have heard many in our community say that we do not need to spend that money.  That we should not spend the money.  That we do not need that expense.  That it will be a tough sell.  These people may be right.  And for many they believe that high school should not be about the sports and that too much emphasis is placed on high school sports.  No, high school is not all about the sports.  It also is about the arts and academics and yes, there are some that place too much emphasis on sports.  However, sports teach our kids so much about life and about themselves.  Sports also provides motivation for some students to perform better in the classroom or risk being suspended.  Sports teach teamwork, reward for hard work, self-improvement.  

    Who of us would not be insulted if we were renters and our landlord told us that we would be required to pay for damage they made.  That we would need to seek approval for pictures on our wall not from the local leasing agent but from the corporate office 300 miles away? Yet that was essentially what UMC offered the school district.  It is not like we can just move somewhere else because the Pirates have no where else to go.

    So here are our options as a community.  We can be a desperate tenant with no where else to go and give in to the demands of the University of Minnesota and lose our identity as a school with the added cost of repair and maintenance and rent (which has been graciously declined by Superintendent Olson).  Or we can simply shut down the football program and most likely lose some students who love to play football to another school in the area whereby our school loses state revenue.  Or we can stop looking at the need for a new football field and track not as an expense but as an investment for the future of our school and it’s students where our school has the freedom to make its own decisions regarding if the field is suitable to play or not, where when you walk along the new track and sit in the bleachers, you can look around and know, with absolute certainty that you are in the home of the Pirates.  

    - Jason Klinnert, Crookston