Future Big Ten baseball tourneys might move to Dome

Ben Goessling

On May 19, Minnesota’s baseball team split a double-header with Ohio State to win the Big Ten regular-season title and ensure the conference tournament would be played at Siebert Field.

As a result, the 31-year-old stadium – which lost 1,900 bleacher seats before the season to drop its capacity to a Big Ten-low 600 – would require patching up before it could welcome fans from around the conference.

Using money provided by the Big Ten and funds from its own budget, Minnesota added temporary bleachers along the first-base line to bring the capacity of the stadium back up to approximately 2,200.

But while the seats provided a quick fix for last weekend’s tournament, baseball coach John Anderson said the Gophers would look into staging the tournament at a different site if Minnesota wins the Big Ten in future years.

“We’re going to keep our ear to the ground and look at other possibilities, such as Midway Stadium (home of the St. Paul Saints) or the Metrodome,” he said. “I’m especially interested in the Metrodome, but we have to do it in advance to coordinate the Big Ten tournament with the Minnesota Twins’ schedule.”

Anderson has grown increasingly frustrated with both the condition of Siebert Field in recent years and parking around the stadium, and has mentioned the possibility of moving all the team’s home games to the Metrodome.

If the Big Ten tournament were held under the Teflon roof, however, it would draw the ire of at least one conference coach.

“I’ve been in the Metrodome, and I would prefer not to play there,” Michigan State coach Ted Mahan said. “Everybody else (other than Minnesota) would be at a huge disadvantage.”

Other coaches from the Big Ten expressed support for Anderson’s cause and voiced their concern about the condition of Siebert Field.

“If anybody deserves a new stadium, I think John Anderson does,” said Northwestern coach Paul Stevens. “There are some issues (with Siebert Field), and it would be nice to see a program with this kind of tradition get a new facility.”

This year marked the sixth time Minnesota has hosted the Big Ten tournament and the second time in the last three years. Additionally, the program has made the NCAA tournament eight out of the last 11 years and has posted 40 consecutive winning seasons.

Ohio State coach Bob Todd hopes the University’s administration will listen to Anderson’s concerns about Siebert Field and reach a solution.

Six years ago, the Buckeyes built a new stadium with the help of Dorothy Davis, who donated $1.5 million toward the stadium’s final $4.7 million bill. The stadium holds 4,450, although the May 18 double-header against the Gophers drew a crowd of 5,360.

Amenities include an expansive park area around the stadium, something Anderson would like to see in a new facility at Minnesota.

“They’ve really made games an event on campus and made baseball a major entertainment choice in Columbus,” he said. “It’s a beautiful facility and they did it the right way.”

With the passing of a Twins stadium bill in the State Legislature last week coupled with the Minnesota Vikings’ increasing demands for a new stadium, the Metrodome’s days could be numbered.

If the Metrodome is demolished before the University can move forward on a new baseball stadium, Anderson fears the worst for the Gophers program.

“If the Metrodome goes away, then we’ve got huge problems,” he said. “It’s allowed us to bring in the top teams for tournaments and attract better recruits.”

If the Gophers win the Big Ten next year, chances are Siebert Field won’t be the first option as a venue for the conference tournament.

And if Siebert Field isn’t replaced soon, the Gophers might not host many more conference tournaments period.

 

Ben Goessling welcomes comments at [email protected]