Blame it on the rain: June storms force Grovers to re-sod field
Instead of bright green grass, the Fargo Oak Grove High School football field is a big slab of black sludge. The smell is reminiscent of a landfill. Normally a slice of prep Americana with mature trees behind each end zone, the Red River behind t...
Instead of bright green grass, the Fargo Oak Grove High School football field is a big slab of black sludge. The smell is reminiscent of a landfill.
Normally a slice of prep Americana with mature trees behind each end zone, the Red River behind the visitor's bench and a small-town feel all around, the field now looks more like a dried-up lake bed.
The June rains that took the Red River well past flood stage have also taken the field's grass.
"It's just a heartbreaker to look at," said Grovers head coach Kyle Bakken.
The heartbreakers are coming at a more frequent pace in recent years. Former athletic director Darwin Gorder was at the school 13 years before a July 4, 1975 flood took the green out of the grass.
It's happened four times since.
"It seems like it's getting to be much more common," said Gorder, who works in an administrative role at the school.
The school plans on re-sodding the field in the next couple of weeks, or whenever the ground is dry enough for machinery to work on it.
The $20,000 expense has already been approved by the Oak Grove administration.
Bakken said the cost was weighed against the potential loss of $12,000 in concession and gate revenues if the Grovers played every game on the road.
Plus, other local venues had their drawbacks. The artificial turf at North Dakota State's Dacotah Field is outdated and bordering on dangerous, Bakken said.
Concordia College's stadium is booked and renting Minnesota State Moorhead's field would not only cost money but games could only be played in the afternoon.
Plus, the Grover field would have to be re-seeded anyway.
"We narrowed it down to where $5,000 would cover that (re-sodding) expense," Bakken said.
He said that will be raised through external funds.
The Red River crested at 28.2 feet, which is 11.2 feet above flood stage. The Oak Grove field, which is located several feet below the campus buildings, floods at 20 feet.
Routine spring flooding is not a problem for the field because if there is damage, there's plenty of time to plant seed, Gorder said.
"When it comes as late as this, there's no way to get decent grass growing," he said.
Ricard's Sodding Co., out of Crookston, Minn., has been hired to lay the sod. Bakken said the company needs to be able to get on the field by Aug. 1 to assure a Grover home game by Sept. 1.
Practice will not be affected because the team works out at nearby Mickelson Park.
Gorder said diking the field has been discussed in the past, but feasibility and government regulations have squashed those thoughts.
"Because of FEMA, we can't do anything down here," Bakken said.
Plus, Gorder said there is not enough room between the north side of the field and the river to construct a dike high enough.
"There's not a lot we can do," he said.
Other than to lay the sod and hope it returns the field to its majestic prime.
"It's perfect down here," Bakken said. "You're down low and there's no wind. The color change between the grass and the trees in the fall. About 500 to 800 fans. It's just a great atmosphere for high school football."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546