Tournament site embarrasses U officials

Hosting tournaments offers universities an opportunity to showcase their facilities and athletics programs.

But some University officials said they were “embarrassed” to host the Big Ten baseball tournament last week because of a run-down stadium and a torn-up street.

Siebert Field is falling apart and lacks parking and amenities, officials said. Construction on a road leading to the stadium – 15th Avenue – also made the stadium difficult to access.

“I’m a little embarrassed that we’re hosting the Big Ten Tournament and our street is torn up, we’ve got nowhere to park and the stadium isn’t very large,” Athletics Director Joel Maturi said. “It certainly isn’t very fan friendly. I’m embarrassed.”

University baseball coach John Anderson said he was also embarrassed.

“It’s no secret we have shortcomings, but what are we going to do about it?” Anderson said. “It is what it is. We’re trying to do the best we can with what we have.”

The Gophers baseball team won the regular season Big Ten Championship, securing an automatic bid to host the conference tournament.

The University found out May 21 that it would host the tournament, which started May 26.

Associate Athletics Director Marc Ryan, who coordinates NCAA tournaments for the University, said it is difficult to put a tournament together on short notice.

Siebert Field lacks parking and amenities, he said. The University added extra bleachers for the tournament and asked fans to park in the 4th Street Ramp.

The University has hosted the last three Big Ten baseball tournaments and four of the last five, Ryan said. The University’s experience hosting the tournament helps it overcome the shortcomings, he said.

“You control what you can control,” Ryan said. “My mission is to help lead the effort to put on a great championship experience for the student athletes for the six competing teams.

“I can’t control the 15th Avenue construction and I can’t control that Siebert Field is our stadium,” he said.

Despite the problems, Ryan said the tournament went well.

Anderson said he would like the Big Ten to use neutral sites for the baseball tournament. Other conferences use predetermined minor league facilities for their tournaments, allowing fans to make travel plans.

“You can’t put this on with two days’ notice, not knowing where it’s going to be, and expect people to follow their teams on short notice,” Anderson said. “It’s very difficult to create a great experience and make money. If we’re going to do it, we should do it right.”

Anderson said he advocated hosting the tournament at the Metrodome, but Big Ten officials turned down the proposal. The Dome was available last week because the Twins were playing on the road.

The University also made a bid to host an NCAA Regional baseball tournament, using Midway Stadium in St. Paul as its proposed site. But the NCAA announced Sunday that Minnesota will not host a regional tournament.