Coyote softball is set to return to Nygaard Field this weekend for their series against Western Illinois.
The field has been in an unplayable condition for the first month of the season due to renovations and heavy snowfall.
The renovations, which include a new backstop, sound system, cement pads, storage shed, chain link fencing, and windscreen, were set in motion in the fall and scheduled to be completed before the beginning of the season. South Dakota’s Athletic Director David Herbster said delays in equipment arrival were the first setback.
“It seems like everything takes longer nowadays,” Herbster said. “They tell you it’s going to be four-to-six weeks or six-to-eight weeks and then they tell you it’s delayed and delayed and delayed.”
When the equipment arrived, so did the weather. A big temperature swing during the installation of the netted backstop then led to damages to the infield.
“We hit that on a day where it was about 30 degrees in the morning and almost 60 degrees in the afternoon,” Herbster said. “There was still snow and ice on the field, so what happened was you had a melt and some of the equipment that was on the field damaged the infield. Now what we’re doing is grating and leveling that to get it back to a playable condition.”
The third challenge arose in an effort to clear the infield of snow and ice. Herbster said too much dirt got scooped up with the snow and pushed to the edges of the infield, creating ruts and unlevel areas. The lost dirt has replaced and been evened out, but the field will be laser leveled this week.
Herbster said regardless of the renovations, the field wouldn’t have been ready to host UND or Kansas City after this harsh winter.
“I can’t remember it snowing this much for an extended period of time since probably 2008 or 2009,” Herbster said. “Up until probably a week or a week and a half ago, I wouldn’t have allowed anybody on the infield. The field still hadn’t thawed and we still had snow and ice in certain areas…and when you play on it when it’s still wet, you run the risk of damaging it further.”
The facility was up to NCAA regulations, but Herbster said updates were due.
“We didn’t have to do it, but I would say we needed to do it,” Herbster said. “From a playability standpoint, practice standpoint, durability standpoint and storage standpoint, these things needed to be done…not only for the fans but for the players, for the team, the storage and the maintenance of [the field].”
So far, the Coyotes have held home games at Connie Claussen Field in Omaha and at Dakota Valley High School in North Sioux City, but USD isn’t the only school having issues accessing their home facilities. A snowstorm in Fargo forced last weekend’s series against North Dakota State to be moved to Augustana University in Sioux Falls.
The home opening series against Western Illinois will kickoff with a doubleheader on Saturday at noon.