A year after the construction finished on the resurfacing of Saints Field, questions remain about its future.
"It's a great facility for what we're doing right now, and it's a marked improvement over what we had," said Don Olson, athletic director at The College of St. Scholastica. "People are happy with it."
Issues involving parking, seating, and availability have led to questions about the sustainability of the field in its current state.
"When we built the field, we knew we would only be practicing there, and playing soccer, but no one has asked any definitive questions," Olson said. "Probably, within the next two or three years, we need to take a look at it."
Efforts have recently been made to help with parking. The lot directly adjacent to the field has been saved only for those fans commuting to the game, while students and players are asked to park in other on-campus lots. But Olson knows only so much can be done with no more than 20 spots near the field.
"We need parking, but we'd almost have to take away parking in order to build some of the [other] things we need," Olson said.
Included in those other things is seating. Currently, there are only two sets of bleachers, seating approximately 100 people, according to estimates by the CSS sports information department.
"As our teams get stronger, fans grow in interest," Olson said. "We are actually in the process of buying another set of small bleachers right now."
The additional bleacher section will help for soccer, but football is a completely different situation.
"In order to play games there, we would need increased seating capacity," Olson said. "I don't know that it needs to be a stadium setting, but we would need to be able to accommodate more fans than we do now, probably in the range of 1,500 to 2,000 fans."
This year's homecoming game had an announced attendance of approximately 1,900 fans. Seating isn't the only thing lacking for fans. "Right now, we have no permanent restroom facilities," Olson said.
That problem affects players as well as fans. Opposing teams do not have any locker room area. The home teams get to use the "Pinecone," a field house no larger than 20 feet long by 15 feet wide, located near the parking lot.
The field would also need an updated scoreboard, and a press box that could house everyone involved in working a football game.
"We'd have to find a way to accommodate score clock operators, announcers, coaches in the press box, and our sports information people doing statistics," Olson said.
Currently, facilities for soccer games consist of folding tables and chairs and a newly purchased canopy that covers just four or five people.
But upgrades of this magnitude to do not come without costs.
"The price, which could vary greatly, would not be insignificant," Olson said, but he feels that any cost would likely be worth it.
"Football has had a very positive effect on campus," Olson said. "If we were on campus, it would generate a whole different dimension about how people are excited about Saints football. Students and alumni would be attracted to campus for a Saturday afternoon football game."
Aside from the monetary issues involved with what would likely be a large-scale overhaul of the area around the field, Olson said the athletic department would have to overcome opposition on campus.
"Everyone needs to be sensitive to everyone else. In this case, there are sensitivities in a lot of areas, in particular the field's proximity to the monastery and to the cemetery," Olson said. "You always have those kinds of issues, but this one has dynamics that are perhaps a bit more unusual."
Olson admitted that the department felt some backlash from the monastery when first proposing the idea, but hopes the sisters have warmed up the field, and maybe, to having more activity on campus.
"One thing people need to understand is that for a home football game, we would double, maybe even triple, the size of a crowd for a soccer game. The time frame wouldn't be much different than back-to-back soccer matches."
Despite Olson's positive attitude regarding the transition of a home soccer match to a home football game, members of the St. Scholastica Monastery are reluctant to encourage more renovations in the vicinity of Saints Field.
"Many sisters are concerned that as the college expands more and more, the monastery becomes less and less," said Sister Mary Rochefort, the associate vice-president of mission integration.
Sister Rochefort said the topic of building anything beyond the current facilities was, and likely still is, very controversial in the eyes of the sisters, and it would likely be difficult to alter their position.
If the student body would like to bring football on campus, they, themselves, will need to be proactive about it, Sister Rochefort said.
"If students are serious about it, it would be important for them to ask the administration to request a meeting with the sisters," Sister Rochefort said. "And with representatives of the student body, come over and talk to us, tell us about your plans, and get a reaction from us."
Olson said he hopes that, over the next couple of years, those discussions will take place in order to expand use of the field.
"There will be a lot of discussion about how we can increase use of the field and time to use the field during the day, and eventually, maybe bring football on campus," Olson said.
Olson admitted that without a permanent home for Saints football, establishing an identity becomes more difficult.
"This year is a prime example," Olson said. "We have one home football game at UMD, one home football game at UW-Superior, and two home football games at Public Schools Stadium."
The program's inaugural season in 2008 saw the team play two games on the campus of UMD and two games at PSS, which does not have regulation-sized collegiate field goal posts.
"Logistically, it's a nightmare," head football coach Greg Carlson said. "If we don't play at UMD, we have to transfer game clocks. We have to transfer our lift. We bring our own chains. We bring our own yard markers. Prior to the game, most of our coaches and managers are setting up game clocks, setting up field markers. You name it, we have to do it."
Not having a home field is also a problem when it comes to recruiting.
"We had 11 recruits here [for homecoming]," Carlson said. "We had to give them maps to UMD, a pass to get into the game. It takes a lot of organization to stage a game off campus."
Coach Carlson has high ambitions for a dream scenario on the field.
"I envision a long set of bleachers, from 10-yard line to 10-yard line, without having to cut down any trees. I can imagine sitting in the stands in October, looking at the monastery, at the lake," Carlson said. "Wow, it'd be an awesome football venue."
In the meantime, the teams have to work through it.
"Down the road, if things change, that's awesome, but we're just going to keep doing our thing, and do what the college wants us to do," Carlson said.
"As athletic director, [having football play on campus] would be my goal," Olson said. "You don't want to do it if you can't do it well."