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Lumberjacks still hoping for fall home games

Editor's note: Both soccer games Tuesday and the football games Wednesday will be played at the new turf field in Cloquet, superintendent Michael Cary said Monday in an update.

Hints of frustration showed Monday as Cloquet school board members discussed a still uncertain finishing date for the Members Cooperative Credit Union Stadium complex, with final football and soccer games approaching quickly.

"The field's been sitting there almost a month," said board member Dave Battaglia, referring to the new turf field for football and soccer.

After running ahead of schedule much of the summer, the final stages of the $4.9 million project have been slowed by the final subcontractor, Upper Midwest Athletic Construction, one of only few companies in the Midwest that specializes in applying the final surface to the track and painting the lines. Workers didn't arrive until Monday.

In brighter news, the electronic video scoreboard has been installed and Hunt Electric was supposed to complete work earlier this week, district facilities manager Brock Wilton told the board. "They have to teach us how to use the scoreboard next," Wilton added.

Superintendent Michael Cary said he was still hopeful that the soccer and football teams would be able to play on the new turf field next Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, but offered no guarantees.

"Unfortunately, I don't think we'll have a definitive answer until the very last minute," he said.

The main contractor for the complex is Kraus-Anderson with Peterson Companies handling the dirt work and the fencing for the tennis courts. Ulland Brothers laid the black top for the track and the tennis courts. The turf on the football field was installed by Field Turf and the scoreboard was purchased from AIM Electronics, which handled the installation along with Hunt Electric.

Board chair Nate Sandman said final completion and certificate of occupancy was supposed to be Oct. 6, with district handoff and move-in on Oct. 16, according to the preliminary schedule.

Cary agreed it would have been nice to have the project done three weeks ago, but pointed out the subcontractor's schedule didn't line up with the completion of work by all the other contractors.

"I guess I didn't know the track could have that much of an impact, by not allowing us to play any games until it's done," board member Hawk Huard said, pointing out that workers had an ideal summer for construction.

Board members and the superintendent also debated financial responsibility for redesign work to alleviate poor drainage between the new tennis courts and the driveway into the school.

In related matters, school board members approved an April 2024 start date for the sponsorship agreement with Members Cooperative Credit Union. MCCU agreed to pay $1.25 million (roughly the cost of the new turf field) and up to $300,000 for a new scoreboard at the football/soccer field over the next 20 years.

MCCU hopes to have more signage in place by spring, and hold a grand opening next football season. Logos or the MCCU name will be placed on tennis court windscreens and at the field on the scoreboard, the entry to the ticket area, the press box and on the turf field itself.

Also Monday, the board voted unanimously to close grades 1, 4, 7 and 9 for open enrollment, which means students living in other school districts can't open-enroll into those grades, because classrooms in those age groups are close to full. Students that live in the district or move into the district will still be able to enroll in any grade, however.

"The numbers are a little lower this year so we want to be flexible keeping the other grade levels open for prospective families [outside the district]," Cary said. He explained that grades 1-9 had all consistently added numbers, but this year's kindergarten class is down by more than 20 children compared to previous years.