FORT DODGE, Iowa — The Iowa Girls State Softball Tournament is starting on Monday. Teams and their fans from all over the state are coming to Fort Dodge to compete for a state title, but this tournament will feel a little different. Many changes were made in response to the pandemic.
For one, a lot of teams are no longer staying in hotels. The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) Executive Director, Jean Berger, said if they can make the trip home and back every day they are doing it. Two, how teams enter and exit the complex will be different to try and spread people out.
Next and most noticeably the biggest difference, all four softball fields will be used. Usually, it was just the two main fields in action, but now they are taking advantage of all four to spread people out and eliminate major cross over of people switching seats from game to game. That does mean, however, some consolation games have been eliminated. Only a game for third and fourth place will be played.
There’s other measures they are taking too for fans sitting in the stands.
“We’ve done some things with the bleachers up there and in the grandstand center section. The bleachers that will be available will be much less. They’re spread out. Every other row is marked out. We’re not providing pop up tents for shade because, you know, people who don’t know each other will be underneath them. So, we’re letting umbrellas in, which we don’t normally do, but Fort Dodge in July can be fairly warm, in all of Iowa can be fairly warm. So there’s quite a few things where we’re changing,” Berger said.
Where the teams enter the sports complex will be different as well. There used to be one entrance into the facility and now IGHSAU is bringing teams into their own team entrance and parking them.
“So we don’t have spectators and the teams crossing and waiting in line and things like that. So, we have quite a bit of change, actually,” Berger said.
Masks are also highly recommended. Even though it is an open-air facility, the IGHSAU suggests wearing a mask when moving around the facility to maybe go to the restroom or concessions.
Even with these changes, overall Berger said they have had a successful season. Over 90 percent of teams were able to finish the season normally.
“There’s no question that sense of normalcy is something that I’ve witnessed all summer long when I’m out watching. Just their faces and the ability to be playing and now play at state, you know. I don’t imagine we’re going to be doing anything about the [dog] pile after winning a state championship when they come out on the field,” Berger said. “After all, they’ve been together for, you know, a long time. So, if we can let them have a little bit of the fun of reaching their goal. It’s been hard. I think we are very anxious to get to Fort Dodge on Monday, and to get it started. And then to be able to say at the end of that end of it that we made it through it. It’ll be very rewarding, but a sense of relief for us as well.”
Click here for a full schedule of the IGHSAU state softball tournament.