There is no place like home for the state softball tournament.
Executive director Mike Dick confirmed the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union's stance on Rogers Sports Complex and the city of Fort Dodge Thursday, saying the current location is ''second to none'' as it concludes the 42nd season of hosting the event.
''When you consider the facility itself, the partnership with Iowa Central and the suites they offer for the kids and teams, the terrific parking, the practice fields and all of the other accommodations - no other venue rivals it in the state,'' said Dick, a former principal at Prairie Valley High School. ''The people, though, deserve just as much credit as the complex. They are what makes this partnership a special one. From (parks and recreation director) Lori (Branderhorst) to (Rogers Park superintendent) Jim (Winter) on down - all the workers, volunteers and business people of this community - we look forward to coming here every year.
''There is truly something unique and intimate about being in Fort Dodge. We absolutely love it here.''
State softball will be at Rogers Park through at least 2015, as per the current contractual agreement.
''The primary goal is always to hold state at the best venue possible, and this is still it without a doubt,'' Dick said. ''We consider a wide variety of ingredients, and we have everything we need right here. This is home.''
IN WITH THE NEW: This summer's tournament is an introductory period for the new five-class state format, which will be adopted by volleyball, basketball and golf in the months to come.
''So far, so good,'' Dick said of the change. ''We'll have to re-assess after the state championships (Friday), but most of the comments we've received have definitely been positive.
''It makes the days and schedule much more frantic, but I don't think you'd talk to a single player, coach or fan who would rather be at home right now than competing in the state tournament. There are eight extra schools here compared to a year ago, which means that many more people got to be a part of this memorable experience. We're all for more participation and inclusion, especially if it balance the playing field more the way this does.''
There were eight teams and approximately 100 players at the first state tournament at Rogers Park in 1971. As recently as 2003, only 24 qualifiers from three classes advanced.
Today, there are 40 and 700, respectively.
LESSON LEARNED: Despite seeing temperatures regularly flirt with triple digits for a second consecutive year, weather-related incidents have been few and far between this week.
Last season, three umpires were taken to the hospital with heat-induced issues on the first day alone.
''I think everyone is doing a much better job of preparing themselves and taking precautionary measures,'' Dick said. ''Part of it is dealing with it all summer long the way everyone has here in Iowa, but for some of the old-timers like me, you have to remind yourself and not be so stubborn about taking water breaks or asking for help.''
THE CREDITS: Branderhorst and Winter are just the tip of the iceberg at Rogers Park. Countless workers from the area keep the experience both intimate and comfortable for everyone involved.
''Lori and Jimmy always have staff members that take care of everything and go the extra mile,'' Dick said. ''They're terrific and take such good care of all of us.
''The workers and volunteers deserve so much credit and a big thanks from all of us. We Iowans tend to take things like this for granted, so it's nice to step up and recognize them.''
Glenn Yenger, Nick Vinson, Tanner Beck, Patrick Lindner, Tyler Winter, Adam Winter, Drew Ficken, Nate Lentsch, Sam Linde, Cody Harms and Mark Wilson are members of Winter's crew. Ryan Maehl is the recreation administrator. Rachel Maehl is the operations and marketing supervisor. Aleah Lentsch and Courtney Vaughn are concessions managers. Susan Winter is the cashier manager. Jenni Yenger is the landscape coordinator.
THE UMPIRES: This year's state tournament umpires include, in order of experience: Stan Wisnieski (26 years), Phil Kudron (19), Terry Carson (16), Mark Amadeo (14), Steve McCann (13), Deb Richarz (13), Jim Peterson (12), Kris Groff (12), Mark Brighton (10), Jamie Rodenberg (10), Kirk Park (10), Tom Topping (10), Roger Menke (9), Pat Pacha (9), Jeff Tank (9), Brian Lorber (8), Brian Knapp (7), Richard Sebring (7), Gary Wax (7), Tom Moore (7), Troy Nicklaus (7), Duane Duncan (7), Al Stolz (6), Greg Buster (6), Tony Sauer (6), Brian Hazelton (6), Ted Wernimont (6), Dave Huling (6), Karl Woolridge (5), Lannie Miller (5), Stan Siebke (5), Jason Slater (4), Myron Jack (4), Ron Gilliland (3), Jerry Allison (3), Pete Peterson (3), Cathy Creighton (2), Allan Hermsen (2), Joe Havenhill (2), Jon Miller (2), Mark Schaefer (2), Doug Johnson (2), Tom Burger (2), Paul Bird (2), Myron Linn (2), Vince Werkman (2), Michael Bell (1), Fred Perkins (1) and Don Stracke (1).
NEW HALL OF FAMERS: Fort Dodge Senior High graduate Morgan Paulson will be the first Dodger ever inducted into the Iowa High School Softball Hall of Fame on Friday night. Paulson will be joined by Jackie Sorensen (Clear Creek-Amana), Courtney Strang (Solon) and Jamie Kelling (Davenport West).
The 100-game winners being recognized on Diamond 1 are Kelcie Bormann (Preston), Micayla Weaver (Sioux City East), Mindy Lorimor (Fremont-Mills), Paige Blom (Pella Christian), Kaitlyn Caston (West Burlington), Brooke Schaben (Harlan) and Sarah Parkinson (Akron-Westfield).