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

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Location of school sports events hot topic


Lois E. Johnson

Rebels football coach Dave Louzek became emotional during the discussion about where football practices will be held.

Returning volleyball to Willow River was a topic of discussion by the Moose Lake-Willow River Sports Liaison Committee on Wednesday, February 21, at Willow River.

The committee is still discussing changes in the cooperative agreement between the two schools, plus the status of the outdoor facilities at Moose Lake.

Willow River School Board Chair Dave Prachar pointed out the decision was made in April 2017 to move volleyball to Moose Lake for one year.

That move has been very beneficial to the program.

"Beckie (Jackson) likes the practices and games in one spot," said Moose Lake Superintendent Robert Indihar. "She can have kids in the next gym (there are side-by-side gyms in Moose Lake) and talk to the coaches and get them all on one page. She feels that it is beneficial to the girls. She feels very passionate about it."

However, one of the Willow River school board members expressed reasons to move volleyball back to Willow River.

"We may get more participation if it was in Willow River," said Willow River School Board member Bruce Bohaty. "We could share the facilities, share the costs and share the things that we have here. The Willow River facilities meets the needs of the program. Volleyball has been here for quite a while."

Later during the meeting, Bohaty presented a chart that he had drawn on a white board to show the balance of sports hosted by each school. He attached one point to indoor sports and two points to outdoor sports.

The totals showed that Willow River had 7.5 points and Moose Lake had 6 points. Points for track were not listed. The half point was for junior high girls basketball in Willow River.

Volleyball and football showed one or two points for each school because the practices are held in one school and the games in another.

Bohaty had also listed the costs invested in the sports facilities by the two schools during the 34 years of the cooperative sports program.

According to his figures, Moose Lake had invested just over $1 million while Willow River had invested nearly $2 million. Willow River's investment included $1.6 million for a new gym.

Indihar and the Moose Lake board members were quick to point out that those figures did not show Moose Lake's investment in new gyms.

The discussion turned to the status of Moose Lake's outdoor facilities and whether they were usable in the coming outdoor sports season.

"Track can be run this spring but there is no rubberized surface," Indihar reported. "That can't be applied until it is 50 degrees or warmer. The track has a bituminous surface. That's better than running on the roads. We can still have baseball at the old school. The school has been sold but they will be taking over the baseball field later."

Moose Lake Board Chair Steve Blondo explained there is no grass on the space inside of the track but that space could be used after the grass is planted and established. It wouldn't be ready for football practice this season, Indihar added.

There was discussion about where football practices could be held this year.

Willow River's athletic director and football coach Dave Louzek was at the meeting and talked about two spaces in Willow River that could be used, if necessary.

"Neither one is large enough but we'll make it work if we have to," he said.

However, later in the meeting, as Louzek listened to the discussion about practice space for the 100 kids that participate in the football program, his voice caught and he had to stop speaking several times to control his emotions.

"I've spent 19 years and dedicated too much time to the football program and the kids to be in this position of not knowing where we will be this year," he said. "It has nothing to do with wins and losses. We are in the position of not knowing where we will be. We'll make it work; we always do.

"All of these years we've practiced in Moose Lake. It was all part of a great program. We had traditions in both communities but now there is no set place to practice. It hurts me that we are in the times that we are in. We've gone above and beyond to represent our kids and teach them. Winning is the icing on the cake. We are in a position that we should not be in. Please put me back at the old school."

"That's tough for me to answer," replied Indihar. "We won't own the building anymore. I can ask."

Prachar suggested the committee members from each board meet to find a solution to the problem.

There was also discussion about the bleachers that Moose Lake owns but are used in Willow River.

Indihar asked if Willow River was interested in purchasing the bleachers.

"We could take them back and find a place to use them but there would be a cost to haul them," said Indihar.

Prachar said that Willow River could help out with the cost of hauling the bleachers.

Indihar said he would have to talk to the board members to come up with a price if Willow River was interested in purchasing the bleachers.

The members of the liaison group discussed details in the sports cooperative agreement during the lengthy meeting.

It was decided to meet in March for more discussion. No date was set.


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