Brainerd's lower site is now crown jewel
From a distance it almost resembles TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota — minus about 45,000 seats.
Circle Aug. 22 on a calendar or type that date into your cell phone calendar. That's the day athletics and fitness facilities in Brainerd/Baxter will receive a tremendous boost.
The Brainerd Warrior boys soccer team will have the honor of playing the first athletic contest on the newly installed artificial turf at Adamson Field that day. The Warrior boys will square off against Rogers at 1 p.m. followed by the Warrior girls and Rogers at 3 p.m.
The soccer games are two of four events that day. An alumni 7 on 7 touch football game will follow girls soccer. The alumni event will precede the Warrior football team's intrasquad scrimmage.
"It's a classic example of the way we're going to be able to use this field," Warriors activities director Charlie Campbell said. "We're going to have from 1 to 9 p.m. a bang-bang-bang event after event. That's exactly why we put a field like this in.
"We've batted around some talk about what to do to make that day special, have a ribbon cutting so to speak. We're trying to generate some ideas of what that might look like, but certainly it will be a great day not only for our soccer and football communities, but for the entire community and the entire Brainerd Public School system."
The approximate $3.1 million project includes installation of an artificial surface on the stadium field, which will be used by, among others, Warrior football, boys and girls soccer and boys and girls lacrosse teams. The new track around the stadium field will boost the track and field program. The tennis program will receive a shot in the arm with eight new courts.
And, drainage, a huge problem ever since the lower site was built about 40 years ago, will be upgraded to 2014 standards.
"Standing here you really get a sense of the magnitude of what a great thing has been done here," Campbell said. "When you look at this facility, we're going to have the premier facility at a high school in greater Minnesota.
"We're going to be able to practice early spring and have baseball and softball get some reps out here, creating one more station in our rotation of spaces. The last two springs you know how those have been — our kids have been indoors forever — so we'll have one more station outdoors where kids can throw a long ball or take a real grounder, or where track kids can sprint farther distances while everything else is still covered in snow or is frozen.
"And, we haven't even touched on the community possibilities where youth soccer, youth football and other groups and organizations that might have wanted to have a stadium facility, but we've always had to say no because we took special care of our (former) grass field and that needed special care because it was failing."
Here's an update on the project:
The Warriors will open the season at home Aug. 29 against Fergus Falls. On Nov. 8, Brainerd will host a state quarterfinal tripleheader with games in Classes 1A, 2A and 3A.
Campbell said more night games may be scheduled this year.
"When we have to re-do our (grass) practice field for football, we will eliminate a lot of practice space," he said. "We'll need to free up (the stadium field) for some practice time.
"I expect we will see more night (soccer) games than we might see in a normal season just so that we can extend the use of this as a practice facility."
The Warriors' first few meets may have to be played at Forestview Middle School in Baxter so that the asphalt base and the tennis court surface can properly cure and bond together. Campbell said playing tennis on the new courts is more complicated than just putting up the fence, painting lines and putting up nets.
"There is a special curing process that needs to happen on the asphalt that has been put down on the tennis courts and track," he said. "What the competitive surface specialists, the track company and the tennis surface company, are pushing for is a 28-day cure time for asphalt. That makes sure there's a proper bond between those two surfaces and so our patience now is in terms of letting that cure process take place and it's going to make sure we have fewer maintenance repairs down the road during the life of these surfaces."
Sight lines for spectators also will be much improved.
Track and field
One of the most significant changes in the track facility will be that field events will move to a separate area outside the track. All runways and pits will now be located outside the track.
"In order to create more space for soccer on this facility, we wanted to figure out how we could move (field events) outside (the track), so we looked at a lot of different design options," Campbell said. "What we settled on was all of our field events will happen on the north end so athletes are not going to have to run all the way to the south end for pole vault, then back to the north end for shot put or discus and high jump having to run to the other end. Now everything can be condensed in the north end of the field.
"We're going to have two directional runways for long and triple jumps. We're going to have the capacity to have two pole vault pits running simultaneously. We're excited about that because anybody who has spent time around track knows (pole vault is) the event that takes the longest to wrap up. We feel we'll be able to run some of the most efficient meets in our region."
Brainerd, which hasn't been able to host a subsection or section meet for years due to the deteriorating condition of the previous track, can become a subsection and section site once again. The Warriors will host the Central Lakes Conference meet in 2015.
"We're thrilled to be back and in the position that we host," Campbell said. "It's something that our coaches and our game workers take a lot of pride in — hosting events — and we do it well. We treat our opponents respectfully. We provide our spectators with a nice experience. We're excited to be back on the docket to host some track events."
About 900,000 pounds of fill were trucked into the lower site project. Under the stadium turf is about four feet of sand, about two feet of loose gravel and 1-2 feet of fine gravel.
"It's just incredible when you look at the amount of earth they had to take out of here and bring back in to have good sand bases and soils that can compact down," Campbell said.
"We've completely reconfigured our drainage pond," he added. "Instead of fighting that pond, filling it in and trying to make it smaller, we actually beautified that pond. We made it bigger. We're going to let that pond do what it's designed to do and that's hold water. We're actually going to use that to our advantage.
"I'm confident that the way we have engineered and built this drainage system that our water and moisture issues of the past will be resolved."