Officials: Work needed at Hammer Complex

Published 10:23 am Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Board chairman calls for community input

School administrators said Monday Hammer Complex needs significant renovations to make it a quality facility for athletes.

Afton Wacholz

Afton Wacholz

Albert Lea Athletic Director Afton Wacholz, Albert Lea Director of Facilities Steve Anderson and Albert Lea High School Principal Mark Grossklaus presented needed updates to the athletic facilities following the move of Albert Lea varsity football’s Sept. 9 scheduled home game against Belle Plaine to Belle Plaine due to unsafe playing conditions.

“We just want to start the conversation because we feel it’s very important right now with some of the things that have came up that we start looking at this, because we feel it is needed right now and it is very important,” Wacholz said.

She said Hammer Fieldhouse is now used more for soccer and football than it was in the 1960s.

“The space that we have in there to provide reasonable accommodations to our visiting teams can be quite embarrassing, truthfully,” she said, noting football and soccer players have had to sometimes wear tennis shoes at the facility’s practice fields due to hard ground caused by a lack of an irrigation source for the fields.

She said Jim Gustafson Field was originally built to host less athletic events than it currently does.

“We want to provide a stadium experience to more than just our varsity soccer teams, we want to provide that to our JV and lower levels,” Wacholz said.

Replacement parts for the scoreboard at Jim Gustafson Field are not available due to the age of the scoreboard, Wacholz said.

“I pray every Friday night and every Monday and every Tuesday and every Thursday that the scoreboard doesn’t go out,” she said, noting she would like the scoreboard to better indicate the facility’s multi-sport use.

She also expressed concern over Title IX regulations and the school’s varsity softball field.

Anderson presented pictures showing patches and degradation to the bleachers at Jim Gustafson Field.

“It’s not falling apart, but it’s showing wear,” he said, noting his belief the facility does not meet ADA compliance.

School Board Chairman Mark Ciota suggested the board incorporate the community into any decision the board makes on facility upgrades.

“I think we should get a group together and come back with three proposals,” he said.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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