State softball is a community effort

Collective work of many organizations and volunteers contribute to its success

Messenger file photo by Britt Kudla The Fort Dodge softball team celebrates with its trophy after the 2018 state tournament at Rogers Park.

The state softball tournament first arrived on Fort Dodge’s doorstep nearly 50 years ago, when a freshly-christened Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex was still in the beginning stages of its development.

So much has changed since 1970. The sport has evolved. The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union has grown and gone through transitions in leadership. Our town and the facility itself vaguely resemble the pictures from the early days of the annual summer event.

Yet here we are, ready to serve as tourney host for the fifth consecutive full decade. No other venue on either the boys or girls side of Iowa high school sports is able to make such a claim.

Who deserves the credit for such a harmonious, monogamous relationship? Of course it’s never one person or side. The city of Fort Dodge and the IGHSAU have put the sweat equity into making sure the tournament is both fan-friendly and team-friendly, and they always try to do so from the same point of view. Any successful marriage is about both communication and compromise. Both sides have a deep respect for each other, making sure decisions take the greater good of all into consideration rather than the advancement of few.

This isn’t just about Rogers Park standing strong as the premier softball facility in Iowa for nearly half a century, though. And it isn’t solely because our city leaders and IGHSAU administrators work well together. While all are true, so many other pieces have to fit in order for this puzzle to remain intact.

Iowa Central Community College will house nearly 30 of the 40 qualifying teams this week. Instead of programs scrambling to reserve rooms in and around Fort Dodge, players and coaches spend time together on campus at a special rate. They’re away from distractions and with each other, with space to spread out in updated living quarters. Meal tickets are provided, as well as access to practice facilities.

The Fort Dodge Convention and Visitors Bureau provides gift envelopes to each visiting student-athlete, which includes coupons to use around the area, pool passes to Rosedale Rapids, and full tournament access for other games throughout the course of the week. Businesses, restaurants and hotels also roll out the red carpet to make the 600-plus players from across the state feel welcome, with special deals and incentives to shop and stay locally in their free time.

Last but certainly not least, we have the countless workers and volunteers who are fully committed behind the scenes. Through the Fort Dodge Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department alone, well over 100 employees will be either directly or indirectly involved in tournament preparation and presentation, including the entire Rogers Sports Complex crew, all city parks and forestry workers, the city electrician, the staff at Lakeside Golf Course, and the public works department.

Approximately 20,000 fans will pass through the Rogers Sports Complex gates during a frenetic five-day stretch, beginning with an 11 a.m. first pitch on Monday. If it looks and operates like a well-oiled machine yet again, make sure to give a tip of the cap to all of its moving parts and the people who make it happen. The state softball tournament takes a village to succeed, and no one embraces both the history and the vision of the event quite like the city of Fort Dodge.

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