The Iowa High School Athletic Association announced Thursday the end of its search for the site of the state baseball tournament next month.
There’s not just one site, however. There will be two.
Merchants Park in Carroll and Duane Banks Field in Iowa City were revealed as the two sites for state baseball.
The games for Classes 1A and 2A are in Carroll while the 3A and 4A games will be held at the University of Iowa’s complex.
The 2021 IHSAA State Baseball Tournament is scheduled for July 26-31, with Class 2A and Class 1A from July 26-29, and Class 4A and Class 3A from July 28-31.
The dates in Iowa CIty are later, because the IHSAA didn’t want to mess up parking situations with the University of Iowa hospitals, according to IHSAA executive director Tom Keating.
Next month’s schedules and sites were approved by the Board of Control on Thursday. The one-year plans are pending formal approval by the City of Carroll and the University of Iowa.
The tournament has traditionally been held at Principal Park, and the Iowa Cubs — the Chicago Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate — have hosted state baseball since 2005.
There was even a state baseball tournament last year, even with COVID-19 still making its mark around the state. Iowa was the only state to hold a high school state baseball tournament in the summer.
This year, however, things changed.
Major League Baseball took over scheduling duties for the Minor League Baseball teams, so the I-Cubs had no say over reserving those dates as road days, so that the IHSAA could play its games.
The I-Cubs will be home that same week, so Keating and the baseball advisory committee had to search for a temporary home.
So, why will the small-school tournaments be held in Carroll and the bigger schools get to play in Iowa City?
Keating said it partially had to do with experience with playing on turf.
“3A and 4A schools are more likely to play on turf during the regular season,” said Keating in a Thursday phone interview with The Journal. “1A and 2A are not as likely. We thought it would be a good decision to move them over. Who knows down the road, we don’t know what the future holds. If we stay at two sites, and it happens to be at these two sites, maybe down the road if nore schools put more synthetic turf in, maybe we can mix it up a little bit.”
Setting up shop in Iowa City
At first, the option to look at Banks Field wasn’t available. In a March interview with The Journal, Keating said Iowa’s baseball field wasn’t an option.
When talks initially started, according to Keating, the university told the IHSAA that it didn’t really want people on campus, including staff members.
Things started to open up, and in mid-April, talks resumed between the Hawkeyes and the association.
According to Keating, the university approached him and his staff.
The IHSAA opened communication lines once again.
“It gave us a great option,”Keating said. “We thought we could make something work and we did. We were happy. Just from the facility itself, and the experience we think kids will have playing on a Big Ten field, to the community and what it can offer to fans, we thought it was a great fit.”
Another reason that Keating and his staff chose Iowa City — and Banks Field — is that the Hawkeyes are used to hosting big events.
The Hawkeyes host six football games a year as well as plenty of other on-campus events. Keating has confidence that the UI crew will pitch in to make the Class 3A and 4A tournaments as big as Hawkeyes home games.
Counting on Carroll
Once the process began to find places to hold the state tournament, the baseball advisory committee suggested Carroll right away.
Keating listened, and it ended up working out.
The IHSAA visited with the Chamber of Commerce in Carroll, just to make sure if there were enough hotel rooms and food options.
The Carroll chamber made its pitch and the IHSAA accepted.
“Amenities were one of the first things we looked at,” Keating said.
Carroll first hosted the IHSAA’s Class A State Baseball Tournament in 1970, and again in 1973. The summer event returned in 1995 as the tournament transitioned to an eight-team format, with two of the four classes playing at Carroll Baseball Stadium.
The stadium has over 1,200 permanent seats and was renovated in 2011 and renamed Merchants Park.
Keating said that it was important to have some balance with having one tournament in western Iowa with the larger-school tournament being held in Iowa City.
“We left no stone unturned,” Keating said. “One of the dilemmas was that we had a couple of facilities interested on the rivers. If we could, we wanted to get closer to the center of the state, so travel wouldn’t be as problematic.”