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Duluth closes Wade Stadium until July, impacting Huskies

Wade Stadium, Duluth

Here’s another reason why it will be extremely hard for summer-collegiate leagues to launch this summer:  Duluth Mayor Emily Larson has closed Wade Stadium, home of the Duluth Huskies, until July 1–severely impacting the Northwoods League season.

Larson’s order is independent of stay-at-home orders issued by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, which runs through May 4 (though, by the time you read this, it may have been extended). The local order also extends to a number of Duluth attractions, such as the Lake Superior Zoo. While we’ve not yet seen many local orders impacting ballparks as of yet, it would not be surprising to see more.

The order from Larson comes after the league announced a delay to the start of the 2020 season due to state shutdowns ordered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, as summer-collegiate leagues continue to respond to an uncertain year. In the case of Duluth, if the Northwoods League does open in June, that requires the Huskies to play the first month of the season on the road and reduces the team to basically 40 potential home dates before the end of the season. If the Northwoods League season is extended, it will mean play without the college players who are already eager to return to their campuses in early August: working to keep players around for a full season is always a challenge in summer-collegiate ball. From the Duluth News-Tribune:

These changes are designed to prevent disease transmission per federal and state guidelines, to preserve the city’s financial capacity to maintain all of our essential services and preserve the possibility that Duluth residents may be able to enjoy some traditional summertime activities this year,” she said.

[Huskies owner Michael] Rosenzweig said the Huskies had no advance notice of the closure and he was surprised to hear of the July 1 date. Still, he says the team’s primary concern is for the safety of the community.

“I am assuming the mayor had given a lot of thought and communication to the other department heads about what this means,” he said. “We all love baseball, but we want to make sure that everyone is safe when they come out to the ballpark.”

The Northwoods League is not the only league impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The Lafayette Aviators (Prospect League) will not be able to launch their season until July 1, with their temporary home, Purdue University’s Alexander Field, closed due to a campus-wide shutdown through June 30. The Valley Baseball League has canceled the entire season, while we’re seeing other teams suspend operations. All in all, summer-collegiate leagues across the board are grappling with the potential of shortened seasons, extended seasons into the fall and teams facing serious revenue shortfalls.

Archival photo of Wade Stadium, back from the days it sported a grass field.

With daily news about the spread of the coronavirus impacting the sports-business and facilities industries, it’s more important than ever to stay up with the latest news in the venues industry. That’s why we launched a new Venues Digest newsletter focusing on coronavirus information across the ballparks, arenas, stadiums, theater and performing-arts worlds. For now it will appear daily, and for now it will be free of charge to industry professionals. Sign up here.

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