One year later: Esko moves forward with new facilitiesThe Esko School District is about to begin a renaissance in terms of its district athletic facilities — and perhaps a bit oddly, last year’s floods played a part in making that happen. Community members are invited to bring shovels and join in the groundbreaking at 6 p.m. today, June 20, for a ceremonial groundbreaking for new sports facilities.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The Esko School District is about to begin a renaissance in terms of its district athletic facilities — and perhaps a bit oddly, last year’s floods played a part in making that happen.
“Let me make this clear: natural disasters are never a good thing,” Esko Schools Superintendent Aaron Fischer said. “People in Esko had their homes destroyed. But I think what happened magnified the need we had in our district that much more.”
The district already faced the need to repair bleachers and replace the press box at Les Knuti Field, but last June’s flooding rammed home a truth to the people of the community.
“In addition to flood damage we had rotted and damaged facilities elsewhere, so we are in a massive re-haul,” Fischer said.
The old cinder track at Les Knuti Field was literally washed away when the Midway River jumped its banks last June, making the district’s decision to relocate facility sites even easier. The new field, which will see groundbreaking this week, will be located north of the school’s bus garages — and is on higher ground.
“We’ll fill in the old track site with dirt and level it off for youth soccer and for practices,” Fischer said.
The other major success story in terms of facilities renovation is the school’s baseball field, which was heavily damaged during the flood.
“(Baseball Coach) Ben Haugen and a group of great volunteers worked on that field and got grants to help get that restoration process started,” Fischer said.
The district was one of 22 nationwide to receive a grant from the Muscle Milk Recovery Grant Program, in the amount of $10,000, to help with the effort. The Minnesota Twins Community Fund’s Twins Fields for Kids program also made a grant.
The field’s dugouts are being redone. The field’s fencing has been replaced and new lime added to the ground. The pitcher’s mound is also rebuilt and though the field isn’t yet ready for play, it will be by the time the other facilities are done.
“That was on purpose,” Fischer said. “Everything will be ready when the other work is done.”
The hockey shelter is also in the process of being torn down and replaced after heavy damage to that facility as well.
Fischer said the flood, as damaging as it was and as much hurt as it brought, actually helped the process of replacing facilities.
“The flood came at a time when our facilities were already in poor shape, and it magnified the need for us to replace,” he said. “It brought the community together. But without the community and volunteers and grants and having a story to tell, we wouldn’t have received the grants we got. We found resources and help from kind and generous people and it testifies to the strength of our community.”
Fischer said community strength also led to the eventual passage of a referendum that had in the past been unsuccessful.
“We had tried to pass a referendum a few years previous that failed badly,” Fischer said. “What happened was a very solid group of people came forward and were involved in the planning process. We had a year of talking about the issues, and when it came to a head we had an engaged grass roots effort.”
So, from an athletic point of view, the end result of the flooding will be new facilities — and a fresh start.
What a difference a year makes. Last year, on June 20, people in Esko could do little more than watch in horror as the Midway River overflowed its banks, washing away the high school baseball field, flooding the hockey warming house and further damaging an already deteriorated football field. This year, June 20 will be a day of celebration as the community gathers at 6 p.m. for a ceremonial groundbreaking for new sports facilities.
Construction begins this week on the new, $2.7 million sports complex in Esko. Thursday evening, the community is invited to bring a shovel and join in the groundbreaking for the project, which was approved by voters last November.
The project will include a new football and soccer field, all-weather track, varsity softball field, upgrades to the varsity baseball field, six youth soccer fields and a multi-use facility that will serve as a hockey warming house, locker rooms, concession stand and storage space.
For more information about the project or the Esko school district, visit www.esko.k12.mn.us.
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