New Esko sports facilities are pride -- and proof -- of community

The Emerald of Esko ... The Igloo off the Interstate ... The Monster on the Midway ... What exactly are they going to call the new Esko athletic complex?...

New field
Pine Journal sports reporter Brady Slater interviews Esko Superintendent Aaron Fischer on the new turf football field -- near the igloo image in the center of the field -- Monday afternoon during a tour of the new sports facilities. The football team will play its first game on the field Friday, which is also Homecoming. "Friday is going to be a really great day to be an Eskomo," Fischer said. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

The Emerald of Esko ... The Igloo off the Interstate ... The Monster on the Midway ... What exactly are they going to call the new Esko athletic complex?

"Esko Community Fields," said Superintendent Aaron Fischer, "nothing more official than that."

How appropriate, as the facility speaks for itself. A tour of the grounds Monday revealed a work in progress, but -- seniors rejoice! -- that's not stopping the weekend's inaugural slate of action on the newly minted football and soccer field.

The Esko football team will christen the complex with its homecoming game against Two Harbors on Friday, with kickoff at 5 p.m. Fischer expects the crowd to swell well over the normal 700-800. So, get there early (he recommends 4:15 p.m.) and park at one of the three Park-and-Rides -- with buses leaving from St. Matthew's Church (East Highway 62 and Elizabeth), Esko Town Hall (East Harney Road) and Esko High School.

While much of the site remains under construction (thus extremely limiting parking), the jewel of the project is the new SPRINTURF football and soccer complex that "has multi-use in its blood," said Fischer. It stands poised for game days. As fresh and crisp and innovative as its strands of blue and green artificial grass are, it harkens back to another time.


"Back in 1972," said football coach Bill Hudspith, "the athletic complex was the best north of the Twin Cities."

It may be again. An Eskomo-eye view of the community fields presents the observer with one treat after another. The school's spirit rock was relocated along the paved walking path that feeds the football field. There's a new shot put/discus pit from which athletes will toss heavy things toward green space that used to be the old football field and track. There's a refurbished baseball field behind the grandstands that features a freshly sodded infield. Baseball Coach Ben Haugen was out Monday, too, surveying the latest progress on his ballclub's new home -- all of it a far cry from the degraded and flood-ravaged complex that necessitated the community's passing of a $2.7 million referendum.

There's a new softball field and a community concession/warming house that features boys and girls locker rooms. Inside the construction zone, big bay windows let the day's sunlight pour in.

What started as a tedious exercise in moving dirt has now come together to reveal the imagination of the community board that worked to realize the complex.

"Everything just mushroomed at the same time," Fischer said. "It was a lot of work, and a lot of meetings. We all agreed on the big picture, but the details brought a lot of discussion."

By next school year, once the ground's grasses grow, there will be a fully realized complex. And there will be many people to thank, including the turf club that raised additional money for the four-layer, easy drain artificial surface (the first in Carlton County) and the baseball boosters who sought the sodded infield. The project will total more than $3 million when all is said and done. Local corporations will be able to hang thank you portraiture of the pristine facility. It will stand as a monument to a community come together.

Fischer is quick to name all the contributors. He's even quicker to put things into perspective.

"We were proud to do it," he said, "for our kids."


Friday Football

Friday's festivities begin at 3:30 p.m. with a student march from the school to the new field. There will be a short dedication ceremony at 4:45. The homecoming game, versus Two Harbors, begins at 5 p.m. Because construction continues on other parts of the project, parking will be extremely limited at the field for Friday's game. Free shuttle buses will run from St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, the Esko School and the Esko Town Hall.

Saturday Soccer

The girls soccer team will face Princeton at Esko, 3 p.m.

The Esko School's spirit rock was relocated along the paved walking path that feeds the football field. A Finnish word "Sisu" can be roughly translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

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