Guest Opinion

Monday, January 9, 2006

Cubs, high school officials deserve credit

This past summer our newspaper expressed serious concerns about the presence

of beer in certain exclusive areas of Principal Park in Des Moines during the state high school baseball tournaments.

We thought that represented a dramatic departure from the purity of the high school game, and quite frankly, the family atmosphere many in Carroll worked to promote while we had the privilege of hosting half of the slate of games.

In the Principal suites, "skybox" areas rented by big businesses or groups of fans at Principal, the beer flowed as high school athletes took the field for play.

Some fans came out from the corporate boxes to open-air deck areas to hoist beers in showy acknowledgement of soda-clutching friends in general seating while other suite spectators stacked empty beer cans in fraternity-row fashion along the windows.

"It's a situation we wish didn't exist, but it does exist," Rick Wulkow, executive director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association told us then.

To be clear there was no alcohol available in the general-admission area, but the Iowa Cubs organization leases suites to businesses and groups, and the people in those places were allowed to drink alcohol during the schedule

of high school games.

This won't be the case at the next high school baseball tournament in Des Moines - of for that matter, at state basketball games in Wells-Fargo Arena this coming year.

"Naturally the wheels started turning as soon as the story came out," said Bud Legg, information director for the Iowa High School Athletic


In the IHSAA December Bulletin, Wulkow says his organization made

arrangements with Principal Park and Wells-Fargo Arena staff to maintain a completely alcohol-free environment in the future. Corporate types in the

boxes will be under the same rules as regular guys in the stands during high school games.

The "alcohol issue raised its ugly head" at the state baseball tournament, Wulkow said in the bulletin.

"With a great deal of cooperation that issue has been resolved for the future," Wulkow said. "The Board of Control was given a letter from the management at Principal Park that there would be no alcohol present, sold or

consumed during our 2006 state baseball tournament. Similarly, we have received great cooperation from Wells-Fargo Arena with their leased-suite holders and restaurants to assure it will be an alcohol-free environment when the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union and the Iowa High School Athletic Association have events there."

Legg said the episode last summer created awful publicity for all those involved in hosting the games. He said Wells-Fargo and Iowa Cubs officials were quick to join the IHSAA in resolving the matter.

"I don't think we have the clout the NCAA does," Legg said. "But I think we have the same respect."

After the beer-and-high school baseball story appeared in the Daily Times Herald it was picked up by the Associated Press and it ran in the Omaha World-Herald. The Des Moines Register and other media outlets reported on it as


Worst of all, Legg said, it became a topic on talk radio in Iowa, and still sparks snide remarks on Internet sites related to high school sports.

"As everyone agrees, beer has no place at high school athletics," Legg said.

There is some signage promoting the consumption of alcohol at the venues,

Legg said, but he noted that efforts would be undertaken to cover those up or make the often permanent and pricey advertising displays as inconspicuous as possible.

Legg, a former Ames High School educator who is highly regarded in high school sports circles and serves as a key media contact, said he had an idea about how to handle the "Bud zone" issue during high school hoops.

"That's not in reference to alcohol," Legg said. "That's where my press people are going to be."

We'll give them that one.

* Douglas Burns is a columnist for the Caroll Daily Times Herald and contributes to the Pilot-Tribune.