After opening each of the past two seasons at Cobra Field in Sigourney, Pekin head coach Brent Blakely was looking forward to finally hosting the Backyard Brawl at Tom Stone Field.
Instead, the Panthers will have to settle for playing host to Sigourney-Keota next Friday night at Schafer Stadium in Ottumwa. Severe weather that included strong wind gusts on Tuesday morning left damage around the grounds of Pekin Community Schools, including destroying the scoreboard at Tom Stone Field and damaging the supporting structure of the home stands.
“I had a pretty good feeling at about Noon (on Tuesday), just from driving around that is was not going to be a quick fix,” Blakely said.
Besides the damage to Tom Stone Field, which included the scoreboard being blown through the outfield fence of the Pekin High School baseball diamond, wind gusts also tore apart the front portion of a utility shed, blew over a brand new booth used for ticket takers and lifted an equipment trailer onto a neighboring truck. While some of the damage has already been cleaned up and cleared away, the process of repairing the bleachers and replacing the scoreboard will prevent the Panthers from being able to host a game at least by next Friday night.
“We won’t know probably for another week how long the repairs are going to take to be completed,” Blakely said. “We haven’t really talked long term about finding places to play any other home games. I’m fairly confident that we’re going to be back at home sooner than later. I can’t say that’s for sure at this point, but I think it’s important to get to that point especially for our seniors in their final season with the program.”
As luck would have it, the storm damage came just hours before Blakely found himself in Ottumwa at a training session which also included representatives from both the Sigourney and Ottumwa Community School Districts. Within hours of the storm hitting, Ottumwa offered to host Pekin and S-K with the Bulldog football team being on the road next Friday for its season opener at Burlington.
“It was kind of nice that the right people were all at the same place to make it happen,” Blakely said. “I can’t say enough positive things about Ottumwa’s athletic director (Scott Maas). He welcomed us with open arms allowing us to use their facility. He walked us through everything. He’s given us free reign to use everything we need. It’s really awesome to get that kind of support from your neighbor and to work together to make things happen for these kids.”
Going back to last year, this will be the second time in the last three football games that Sigourney-Keota has played at Schafer Stadium. Rain forced the Cobras to move their final home game of last season against Wapello to Ottumwa.
“They had nothing but good things to say about the facility. They thought it would be a great idea to have the game there,” Blakely said. “It’s going to be exciting for the kids. Any time you get out on turf, they seem to enjoy that. It’s a unique opportunity, especially getting all out kids including the junior varsity teams out on that field.”
The damaged utility shed, baseball fence, home football bleachers and missing scoreboard are the only remaining signs of a sudden storm that blew through southern Iowa on Tuesday. Fortunately, those are the only scars that seem to remain from a storm that could have done a lot more damage to those around at the Pekin Community School grounds at the time.
“That’s the biggest thing. No one was hurt in this storm,” Blakely said. “We’ve talked to the insurance companies and we’re going to continue to look for any further damage. Right now, it’s about making sure everything is safe and secure around the school. We’ll worry about being able to host events as soon as that’s taken care of.”