School districts around the state prepare for spring sports

Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 7:36 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Spring sports in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the Interior, Southeast Alaska and the Anchorage area are all waiting for the same thing: the snow to melt.

For some areas of the state it is easier than it is for others, as Anchorage soccer teams begin their seasons playing indoors at The Dome.

“The Dome really gives us an extended season, the opportunity to start right around spring break every year and get three, four weeks of solid practice and competition in before we can transition outside,” said Anchorage School District Secondary Education Director Marty Lang.

Not every region of the state has that luxury though, in the Interior most schools spend April traveling to places that can host outdoor sports, otherwise their athletes train on hardwood gymnasium floors and do the manual labor of preparing the fields themselves. The Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks and Recreation department continues to discuss building an indoor facility in Fairbanks. Lathrop High School Activities Director Steve Zanzazzo feels that an indoor facility in Fairbanks would be crucial during the spring.

“I think that it is long overdue this time of year we could be renting that facility, that would have like a turf field in it for all of our teams,” Zanzazzo said. “10 years we haven’t made much ground on getting our athletes and the folks that want to do walking still walk around the top of the Big Dipper [Ice Arena]. We need a track for them to walk on indoors.”

In the Valley they have the benefit of strong winds which help blow the snow off of the fields and tracks faster than other areas of the state. Anchorage soccer teams began scheduling some early season games against teams in Palmer because their outdoor turf was among the first to be clear.

“We’ve actually been outside since Monday for soccer our turf is completely clear,” said Palmer High School Activities Director Dale Ewart. “Our track is three-quarters clear, we actually put out some heavy duty black geo-fabric material out in a bunch of places to try and help the thaw and that did help quite a bit.”

Farther south in Juneau they don’t really have a big indoor facility besides Dimond Park Field house, which the baseball and softball teams get to use a couple of times a week. The Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé Activities Director Chad Bentz said he is also excited for everyone to get back outside, because it helps with their COVID-19 protocols. Juneau schools have been required to wear masks inside until Monday when they become optional on April 4th.

“After winter — and it’s worse up there, it’s colder up there — it is just nice to get outside and breath that air and you know it is just awesome.” Bentz said. “Everyone looks forward to spring and getting outside.”

For now in Anchorage, the first few track meets and soccer games will be held in The Dome. Athletes and coaches are all waiting for the snow to melt so they can get back outside, but even if it looks like the fields are ready to go, that might not be the case.

“Just because people are seeing green turf of the brown surface of the tracks doesn’t mean they are ready,” Lang said. “We have our maintenance folks going out there and checking them regularly to make sure that the ground underneath is also unfrozen enough, so that those playing surfaces are safe for our athletes. So they will start the process of checking those surfaces almost daily here as soon as things are completely cleared off and we hope to get folks out there as quickly as possible.”

Seemingly everyone around the state is just a few weeks away from getting outside full-time.

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