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Hematites field a black eye

September 19, 2011
The Mining Journal

There are patches of green grass visible at the Ishpeming High School football field now, not like the beginning of the season when all you saw was yellow.

That's because we've had some recent rain. Not enough to fully restore the field's grass, but a welcome drink for a parched surface, nonetheless.

Associate forecaster Megan Babich of the National Weather Service in Negaunee Township reports the Ishpeming-Negaunee area received so little rain in July and August, it qualified for "drought status."

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In July, 3.01 inches of rain fell, 2.15 inches below normal. In August, rainfall was 1.12 inches instead of the 3.05-inch norm.

The field was not watered during these months, resulting is a surface so dry, it almost resembled straw instead of grass.

"It definitely is disappointing," longtime IHS head football coach Jeff Olson said. "Other coaches and school administrators say it's a black eye for our program."

I'm not talking about a prep football program struggling to stay alive here that no one cares about. IHS is the defending state Division 7 runner-up and has made the state postseason playoffs the last nine seasons.

The Hematites have also won two state Class C championships in 1975 and 1979.

In short, IHS has a long and successful football legacy.

To see its football field left in such poor shape is a shame. It's also inexcusable.

Supt. Stephen Piereson says the cost of watering the field - it was $11,000 for the main field and the adjacent practice field when the water was last turned on in 2009 - is prohibitive for a school district coping with financial constraints.

"We didn't irrigate the field last summer, either. We had ample rain then," he said.

But not this summer. Instead, Mother Nature left the area with a few drops of moisture, but certainly not enough to properly irrigate the field.

Someone should have stepped up to make sure the Hematites played on a better field.

It's not about having a field with grass so lush it would remind you of a golf course. But it shouldn't crunch under your feet when you walk on it, either.

If the school district was so short of money to water the field, a call should have gone out for donations. Perhaps a local business or two could have contributed enough funds to turn the sprinklers on, even for just a day or two during the hot summer months.

That could have made a big difference. Instead, the field was hung out to dry, so to speak.

Piereson said the school district has received several calls about the situation. Not complaints, he said, but "people who noticed" the dry field.

"The (season-opening) Iron Mountain game was the low point for the field," he said. "But it's getting better. It's starting to come back now."

Piereson added the school district is looking into drilling a well to tie in with the sprinkling system that's now connected to the city water supply.

"We could then supply water for the field at a very low costs," the superintendent said.

Unless the area gets a lot of rainfall soon, it may be too late to improve the football field to what it should be. And with the Ishpeming varsity or junior varsity team using the field every week through at least early next month, it may not be long before it's a mess due to summer neglect.

The IHS varsity could even host a playoff contest once the regular season is over. That's if the field is playable, of course.

Someone dropped the ball on this one and it wasn't an IHS ballcarrier.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.



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