Multiple options for many events
There is no doubt what many will consider the shining jewel of the new Alexandria Area High School athletic facilities when the first games are played there this August.
The new stadium with revolution field turf on Viking Savings Bank Field where the varsity football and soccer teams will play their games jumps out the moment one sees it. Bright red end zones with “Cardinals” written in white pops off the green turf and a giant red “A” sits at the 50-yard line.
The surface is nothing like that of the old Metrodome turf that felt like walking onto concrete. One step onto the field and it’s easy to feel how it will play fast but also safe with plenty of cushion.
The visitors entering the stadium will have a walkway that takes them to the east side of the field to bleachers that seat up to 1,000 people. The home side seats 2,500, compared to the 2,100 total seating capacity Alexandria had at Citizens Field.
The added seating makes it an even more attractive option for hosting playoff games with the Minnesota State High School League. Alexandria is already lined up as the host site for section and state quarterfinal football games, as well as section boys’ and girls’ soccer games this fall.
Fans will have an area to sit and eat or just to socialize in the Nodland Plaza when they enter the stadium. The home grandstands are handicap accessible with a wheelchair ramp, as well as two stairwells coming up from under the bleachers. A nine-lane running track surrounds the field as the home for the Cardinals’ track and field program.
SOFTBALL, BASEBALL AND ADDITIONAL FIELDS
One of the biggest advantages of the new athletic complex is its ability to host multiple events and practices at the same time on campus.
Alexandria now has the practice and game fields to make that happen. The site has two softball fields, two baseball fields and two flex fields that can serve as both softball and youth baseball venues. Irrigation systems are featured on every field on campus.
The varsity baseball team still plans on playing its home games at Knute Nelson Ballpark once the school opens. A fundraising effort is going on to try and raise money to purchase lights for one of the baseball fields, and the venue will likely host summer events for teams like Alexandria VFW and Legion baseball.
“Right now, the community feels that Knute Nelson is the field where they would want to see the varsity baseball play,” Activities Director David Hartmann said. “We don’t have lights yet on one of the fields. If we had lights, that might change. If we had more of a stadium feel, bleachers and so forth, there might be interest in that but right now we don’t have that. Someday I’m sure we will.”
Every varsity field on site points toward the southwest. The setting sun can cause problems for the offense and defense on many fields around the state, so the fields were placed in that direction to help minimize those issues.
“That proved to be the best for both fielders and batters,” Hartmann said.
Storage facilities are also placed all over the complex, which means faster setup times for practices and games.
The site features six fields for soccer and football that can be used for practice, games, and hosting tournaments. The lights from Citizens Field have been moved over to the field just west of the main stadium.
The Citizens Field press box is coming soon and scoreboards from Lincoln, Woodland and Jefferson schools will also be used on the new campus.
Simply put, the combination of all these fields allows for the kind of flexibility that they never had before. The AAHS facilities can now serve as the home for Cardinal athletics for those in grades 9-12, as well as community youth athletics and other multi-purpose community events.
“For years we’ve run all over town for all these events,” Hartmann said. “We tried to get almost everything on campus. To run quality events at this location will be great for parents, great for kids.”
Tennis lovers will also appreciate the 12 connected courts on campus.
The original plan was for eight courts on site, but grants were written and additional money was raised to add four more. This will allow Alexandria to host bigger events and alleviate some of the problems for parents of players of different age levels. The varsity and junior varsity programs used to split up for competitions between courts at Discovery Middle School and Lincoln Elementary School.
The new courts feature U10 lines for youth matches and will also be much more spectator friendly. Instead of watching through a fence, three-row bleachers that separate the courts and face each direction will allow fans to be right next to the action.
“We have a chance to do this every 70 years so we wanted to do it right,” Hartmann said of the complex as a whole. “We had a lot of input, and we tried to listen to those ideas and give a long-term solution for our kids.”