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Bemidji State athletic facilities, area golf courses hit hard

A view from right field at the Bemidji State baseball diamond early Tuesday morning after nasty storms hit the area Monday night. The baseball field was one of the most visible signs on damage on the BSU campus, as the fence was completely mangled and could be seen driving by on Paul Bunyan Drive. Later in the afternoon grounds crew members installed an orange snow fence in front of the old fence so the Bemidji Post 14 baseball team could play later that night. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI - The Bemidji State University baseball diamond was the most visible sign that Monday's severe thunderstorm did some significant damage.

Winds blew much of the outfield fence down - from center field to right field. The storm also claimed the hitting tunnel and the batting cage down the right-field line, lifting up the cage and throwing it a couple hundred feet onto the softball field.

Luckily for Bemidji State head baseball coach Tim Bellew, the damage to the actual playing field was minimal.

"That was about it," he said. "But it's enough."

Various branches and pieces of debris made it onto the field, but nothing that would prevent the field from use.

"There's no damage to the actual field, luckily," he said.

So despite the lack of an actual fence, the Bemidji Post 14 American Legion team was playing again Tuesday night.

Members of the BSU baseball team who were still in town, along with members of the Legion team, helped the cleanup process Tuesday morning. In place of the old chain link fence, volunteers erected an orange snow fence.

"We were fortunate things didn't get torn up on the field," BSU assistant coach and Bemidji VFW coach Dan Bennett said. "And we're lucky the scoreboard and grandstand are perfectly fine."

There were some trees on the field - at least four blew over from Greenwood Cemetery across Paul Bunyan Drive from BSU - but they didn't scuff up the field in any way.

Bellew said a BSU official was assessing the damage Tuesday morning.

"We're covered by insurance for all of this damage," he said. "I'm not sure when we're going to be able to get everything fixed but luckily we have the summer to work on it."

Although the baseball field took the brunt of the damage, there were signs of the storm at other areas of the university, especially the athletic fields.

"It's unfortunate that we had some damage, but we're very fortunate that no one was hurt," BSU director of athletics Rick Goeb said.

Goeb said the main damage, aside from the baseball diamond, was the soccer field. A camera platform was blown down and dismantled, but the scoreboard appeared to be in good condition.

Pieces of the platform in the middle of the field were cleaned up by crews Tuesday afternoon.

Other damage at BSU was mostly fence-related. The softball field and the outdoor tennis courts also had some minor fence damage; the batting cage also sat in a metal heap in left field at the softball diamond.

The biggest shock to Goeb was the condition of Chet Anderson Stadium. Despite sitting mere feet from Diamond Point Park, which was decimated by the storm, the football field was virtually untouched.

"We're going to try and get everything repaired as soon as we can," he said. "We're just fortunate that the damage was not as extensive."

golf courses hammered

The damage wasn't limited to Bemidji State. Area golf courses had it even worse.

At Sandtrap in Cass Lake co-owner Gary Larson had a dozen people working on the course Tuesday afternoon and they were kept very busy.

Complicating the cleanup was the lack of power and phone service. Much of Cass Lake remained without power all day on Tuesday.

"I don't know how many trees we lost but I would guess that it is at least 100," Larson said. "All of the big Norway pine trees are gone, except the left one on No. 4 fairway."

The fourth hole at Sandtrap is among the course's signature holes. Guarding the middle of the fairway are two huge Norways. At least there were two prior to Monday's storm.

"Now a golfer can actually be safe fading the ball to the right side of the No. 4 fairway," Larson said. "The loss of that tree changes that hole completely."

Also falling victim to Monday's storm was the huge Norway guarding the right side of the No. 5 fairway and the three Norways protecting the right approach to the green.

The large Norway on the right side of the green on No. 7 also was a casualty as were the birch trees along the left flanks of the No. 2 and No. 6 fairways.

"And all of the jackpines along the left side of No. 4 are gone," Larson said. "This storm made an unbelievable difference in the layout of the golf course."

Sandtrap is closed until further notice but Larson is hoping that the course could open on Friday. When phone service is restored course updates can be obtained by calling 335-6531.

Maple Ridge was another casualty of Monday's storm and owner Jeff Zigan isn't sure when he will be able to reopen.

"We're closed until further notice," Zigan said. "As soon as power is restored we will leave a message on our phone (751-8401)."

Maple Ridge is known for its picturesque beauty and the stars of the show are the thousands of trees that dominate the landscape. Following Monday's storm, however, somewhere between 50 and 100 trees were uprooted, snapped in half or entirely toppled.

"I was mowing the fairways when the storm approached," Zigan said. "I took the golfers off the course, sat in the building and watched the storm.

"It didn't seem too bad until I looked out the front of the building and then, when I saw the pine trees go down, my heart sank."

No part of the course was untouched by the widespread damage. From the green on No. 1 to the tee on No. 9, the damage was severe.

"The good thing is that there wasn't any damage to our $5,000 electrical units that we use to control the watering of the course," Zigan said.

Although any golf course that loses 100 trees will be impacted, Maple Ridge should be able to overcome the destruction.

"We still have 1,000 trees on the course," Zigan said. "We've got so many trees that we won't damage the integrity of the course."

Greenwood Golf Course on Swenson Road NE didn't lose power and didn't sustain any structural damage but, like many in the area, dealt with downed trees across the course.

"There were maybe 15 or 20 down," said co-owner Mark Arndt. "We didn't lose power, buildings or any equipment, just trees. So we got it pretty good."

Pat Miller, Bemidji Pioneer sports editor, contributed to this story.

Jack Hittinger

Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.

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