Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Boards talk future of sports cooperative


April 27, 2017

The full boards of the Moose Lake and Willow River schools discussed which school should host games for the various sports at the meeting on Monday, April 24, at the Moose Lake School.

Board members Jamie Jungers and Lisa Anderson-Reed were absent, as was Willow River Athletic Director Dave Louzek.

“The Moose Lake representatives on the liaison asked about having all sports in Moose Lake at the December meeting,” said Moose Lake Superintendent Robert Indihar. “In a letter, the Willow River liaison members said ‘no’, keep the sports at the same sites.”

Indihar explained that the Moose Lake School will not have all of the facilities that the board had thought that it would have. There would only be a practice field for football, not a regulation field. And there would be no softball field.

However, in the two new gyms at the new school, there is space for five volleyball courts.

“We could have volleyball exclusively,” said Indihar.

Superintendent Phil Johnson of the Willow River School said the school board has been holding off on making upgrades to the football field in Willow River, which has been hosting the football games since the cooperative began in 1984.

“We are looking at a new lighting, ticket booth, fencing, irrigation system, speaker system and indoor restrooms,” he said.

Willow River Board Chair Dave Prachar pointed out that the Moose Lake and Willow River schools have cooperated in the sports program for 33 years but the future of the cooperative wasn’t certain.

“We are real confident that Moose Lake is committed to the cooperative,” he said. “How long are we looking at? Twenty years, 10 years? We are looking at going forward. That’s the only thing holding us back.”

Jerry Pederson, a new member on the Moose Lake school board, asked about the cooperative agreement and suggested that it be reviewed.

Prachar said that a committee would have to review it.

There was discussion about the new track that will be in Moose Lake.

Moose Lake board member Kris Lyons said that the Willow River liaison members have stated they would not help Moose Lake with maintenance of the track.

Prachar said the Willow River representatives did not ask Moose Lake to build the track.

“You asked us to put money aside for maintenance and resurfacing the track in 15 years,” he said. “It is your project.”

His statement was supported by Bruce Bohaty of the Willow River school board.

“It’s a big endeavor to build a track,” he said. “We didn’t have adequate indoor facilities. We built a new gym to add indoor spaces. That was done for the benefit of all of the kids and of the cooperative.”

The discussion returned to the question if either school could have a sports program on its own.

“We have the kids but we would struggle financially,” said Indihar.

The number of students participating from the two schools often results in the cooperative being a Class AA team.

“Football is OK, but in other sports we are penalized by being in AA by the Minnesota State High School League,” said Lyons.

The Moose Lake Athletic Director, Tony Andres, explained that every sport has a different number of participants, and some schools are in different classes depending on the sport.

“We can petition to be in any class that we want,” he added. “We might not be successful but it is possible. Our volleyball team will be Class A next year. It has been Class AA.”

Prachar said the Willow River School has 26 percent of the players in the various sports, and it contributes 44 percent of the budget for the cooperative.

“I have been asked if it pays,” he said. “I tell them, ‘Absolutely! This is an opportunity for our kids; that’s what it is all about.’”

There was discussion about where the volleyball games should be held. It was suggested the varsity games should be alternated between the two schools every two years.

“We’ve tried that,” said Andres. “It doesn’t work.”

Bohaty suggested the entire volleyball program be at one location.

Prachar said that each school board would have to discuss that suggestion and have a decision to bring back to the liaison committee in June at the next meeting.

“It’s not a question of breaking up the cooperative, it is who has the better facilities,” said Lyons.

Prachar said the terms and conditions of the agreement allow for changes to be made by a vote of each board, and there was an amendment process.

“Either one can say that we would like to amend the agreement,” he added. “We would appreciate an answer on the class thing and an answer about a 20-year cooperative.”

It was recommended by the liaison committee members to both boards that the athletic fees be raised $5, except the family rate. The athletic fees currently begin at $45 for most sports and go up to $55 for football and $65 for varsity football and hockey. The family rate for three or more from one family is $125, said Andres.


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