Duluth Mayor Emily Larson’s announcement Monday that city-owned Wade Stadium would remain closed until at least July 1 was more bad news for the Duluth Huskies.
That means no home games for Wade Stadium’s primary summer tenant for the first half of the Northwoods League season — if a season even gets underway.
The Huskies are faced with playing more than a month straight on the road if the 72-game season begins in late May as scheduled. That’s a big if with the coronavirus pandemic sidelining sporting events worldwide since mid-March.
“Does this mean that whenever the Northwoods League starts up, will we be spending that entire time (before July 1) on the road? Could well be, we don’t know,” Huskies owner Michael Rosenzweig said Monday by telephone from Wade.
Rosenzweig said he informed the Northwoods League of the latest information. The 22-team league is tentatively scheduled to open May 27, but that is far from certain with states’ varying stay-at-home orders.
Any further delays or ballpark closures would complicate matters even more.
“If that happens, that will add more complexity to something that is already pretty complex,” Rosenzweig said.
The Huskies were originally scheduled for 17 home games in June and another 16 in July. They are still hopeful of squeezing 20 overall home games into this season.
“All the teams in all the different states are sending information to the Northwoods League so they can try to figure out some type of schedule for the summer,” Huskies general manager Greg Culver said. “If the Northwoods League wants to start either June 1 or June 15, the Huskies will be on the road until we can have a home game (at Wade).”
Rosenzweig said no other ballparks are under consideration as where to play the team’s home games.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, during his recent announcement extending the state’s stay-at-home guidelines until May 4, said COVID-19 was not expected to peak in the state until sometime in July.
Larson, in her announcement, said that certain other city-owned attractions such as the Lake Superior Zoo also would remain shut down until July 1.
"These changes are designed to prevent disease transmission per federal and state guidelines, to preserve the city's financial capacity to maintain all of our essential services and preserve the possibility that Duluth residents may be able to enjoy some traditional summertime activities this year," she said.
Rosenzweig said the Huskies had no advance notice of the closure and he was surprised to hear of the July 1 date. Still, he says the team’s primary concern is for the safety of the community.
“I am assuming the mayor had given a lot of thought and communication to the other department heads about what this means,” he said. “We all love baseball, but we want to make sure that everyone is safe when they come out to the ballpark.”