Editorial: Sports facilities definitely need improving

Published 9:46 am Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Upgrading Jim Gustafson Field at Albert Lea High School is a proposal worth exploring and, assuming a reasonable price tag, worth funding.


The ground view of opposing sideline from the 50-yard line at Jim Gustafson Field.

The ground view of opposing sideline from the 50-yard line at Jim Gustafson Field.

Because Albert Lea football and soccer teams play on a crowned field, while many teams these days have flatter fields. While no field is actually flat — they might arc a foot or so — many are flatter because they have underground drainage. Meanwhile, the crown at the Albert Lea High field is the drainage. By “crown” we mean the hill that runs down the center of the field lengthwise.

Email newsletter signup

Want an example of a new, low-crown football field? Go visit the casino-funded one at Northwood-Kensett High School. It seems flat to the naked eye.

Albert Leans familiar with watching football games at Jim Gustafson Field, formerly Hammer Field, know how often we see quarterbacks overthrow receivers near the sidelines. It happens at every football field with a high crown. You try throwing accurately downhill as people rush at you. It’s error-prone.

What’s more, standing on the sidelines, stat keepers, coaches and sports reporters have a hard time discerning who did what when plays happen on the other side of the field. Who made that tackle? There’s a hill in the way of the view.

But these are mere inconveniences. The true reason to upgrade the football field is it has become outdated and is getting more use than it was designed for. Plus, the track facilities are outdated. Albert Lea is the only school that cannot host official Big Nine Conference track meets.

As for the overall sports complex, now called Hammer Complex, it’s worth noting the softball fields are not up to Title IX standards.

Sports often get a low priority in the world of academics. So do arts and music, unfortunately. But these three make for well-rounded, healthy and worldly young people. We agree there are places where sports gets far too much weight, like high school football coaches in Texas who make $80,000. But the overwhelming majority of children and adults in sports in Albert Lea know the greater priority is academics. At the same time, these children and adults know intimately how a sound body can assist the growth of a sound mind.

Having the proper facilities is key to the future of Albert Lea High School. But we cannot place the entire expense onto the school district. We hope there are local groups willing to raise funds and assist in whatever conclusion the school board comes to for upgrading the sports facilities in the Hammer Complex and Jim Gustafson Field.

After all, to outsiders, it must seem unusual that Albert Lea has such a lovely, fairly new high school but such old and outdated sports facilities for football, soccer, track and softball right nearby.