It's not as if Lourdes activities director Steve Strickland doesn't have enough to do right now, but he is also in search of a field for the Rochester Lourdes football team to play its home games on this season.
The Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors reversed course earlier this week, moving the football and volleyball seasons back to this fall. A vote last month had pushed those seasons to the spring.
Strickland is scrambling to get the Eagles set to play those two sports, including getting schedules together.
Adding to his to-do list is that Lourdes plays its home games at Rochester Regional Stadium, where the playing surface is currently covered by a deflated portable bubble. The bubble, designed to cover the turf field and give area athletes a place to practice and play in the winter months, was never removed this past spring.
The coronavirus pandemic has kept the company that removes the dome away from the task. Deflated and splotched with dirt, it lays covering the field.
"I'm going to be looking for alternative sites this fall," Strickland said.
"It is what it is," said Lourdes football coach Mike Kesler. "This is throwing a wrinkle in a lot of people's plans. We'll play wherever we need to. The kids are just excited, and it's a unique year and we'll just adapt like we have been."
RCTC usually puts the portable bubble up over the football stadium in November. The facility is used throughout the winter for activities, and the bubble is removed in the spring. But this spring, due to COVID-19, the bubble was never removed.
"We have a company that we hire that we have come in and do that work for us,” said RCTC activities director Mike Lester. “Their crews — they partner with the (Minnesota) Department of Corrections — in terms of getting their crews in right now with the world we’re in and the COVID situation, the Department of Correction crews are not going out to do that type of work because they can’t have 60 people in one location.”
The soccer season started several weeks ago. The Eagles usually play their boys and girls soccer home games at Rochester Regional Stadium, but they have been playing at the Fuad Mansour Sports Complex.
Michael Sheggeby, the director of facilities at RCTC, said there is still a remote possibility that the bubble could be removed.
"It's still in discussions that we're having with administrations to see what we're doing," he said. "We haven't actually made a decision. There's a number of challenges with it."
RCTC has been randomly inflating and deflating the bubble this summer to keep it from getting damaged.
Strickland hopes to have Lourdes' football schedule completed on Thursday. He can't wait to see if RCTC is able to get the bubble removed.
"Once I get our football schedule, I'll be looking and doing some cross-referencing and try to find some open stadiums for us to hopefully be able to rent and use for those specific days," Strickland said.
"It's made things challenging, but we're adapting and trying to do the best we can," he added. "It's part of the COVID scenario."
Strickland said the Eagles might be forced to play at more than one area or city football field this season. The good news is that the three Rochester public schools — Century, John Marshall and Mayo — all have football stadiums at their schools. Mayo is the only one of the three that has a turf field, like Rochester Regional Stadium.
"We better have Plan B in place," Kesler said. "Because from everything I'm hearing, the likelihood of playing out there is not very high."
Sheggeby has talked to other facility directors in the area that have portable bubbles over a stadium. He said most never took down their bubbles, but just left them up since last fall.
"Everyone's in the same scenario we're in, it's not just us," Sheggeby said.
"This is a year that's just strange," he added. "I never thought I'd be running into this sort of thing."
Lourdes plays in the Southeast Blue District, and with La Crescent not playing football for a second straight season, the district has just five teams.
"How are we going to avoid someone having a bye?" Kesler said. "We get six games now, so hopefully someone doesn't have five, but I don't know how we're working through that."