In a day and age often short on commitment, there is something very reassuring about the state softball tournament staying in Fort Dodge through the partnership's golden anniversary.
The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union recently signed an extension to keep the event in our city through at least 2020. It was a gesture of both confidence and appreciation from IGHSAU officials, who solidified the tourney's future by agreeing to a long-term contract for the second time in a decade.
Fort Dodge, of course, celebrated the news. State softball has been our pride and joy since 1970; the steadfast dedication our community collectively shows during tournament week is a sight to see.
There are no guarantees, though, until the IGHSAU offers its hand. Fortunately, the feelings of respect and admiration remain mutual to this day.
''Fort Dodge has been so good to us; it remains the total package for state softball,'' said Mike Dick, the Union's executive director. ''It isn't just about Rogers Sports Complex and the constant improvements being made to an already Grade-A facility. A successful tournament needs the support of everyone in town, and we still feel like we have that here.
''We are very comfortable with staying in Fort Dodge, which is what this (six-year) extension represents.''
In many ways, state softball is the last of a dying breed. The event still offers a full-fledged consolation round, meaning teams stay here for a minimum of three days.
That's where Iowa Central Community College enters the equation, where nearly 80 percent of the qualifiers are housed during their time in town.
''I can't emphasize enough how important that partnership (with Iowa Central) is,'' Dick said. ''The people there are so great to us and to the kids, and they are able to stay there at a very affordable rate.
''Again, it's part of that overall equation. The (Fort Dodge) Parks and Recreation Department does an outstanding job. All of the workers and volunteers come together and make the tournament function. But before, between and after the games are played, we are incredibly fortunate to have Iowa Central's support as well.''
Dick anticipates the tourney format - which has gone from typical to unique as time passes - will stay the same.
''If you have teams traveling great distances after they reach state, it makes sense to reward them with (a worthwhile trip) instead of just sending them right back home (with a loss),'' Dick said. ''It's the summer and the kids aren't missing school, so having (the consolation round) is still the best option. They are able to treat it as a bonding experience because it's not just one day up, one day back.
''Most of the comments we receive from coaches and players are in favor of keeping things as is.''
Currently 43 years and over 750,000 spectators strong, this marriage has outlasted nearly every other tournament and venue in Iowa. Renewing the vows now offers Fort Dodge the kind of security it was hoping for as a wave of new projects arrive to bolster the reputation of both Rogers Sports Complex and the city in general.
The tradition continues.
Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org