Carleton's stadium underwater

More news about: Carleton

By Ryan Coleman

Laird Stadium underwater
Laird Stadium stood under feet of water on Saturday evening, casting the location of this upcoming Saturday's home game against Augsburg into doubt.
Photo by Ryan Coleman,

NORTHFIELD, Minn. -- As the sun rose over Carleton's picturesque campus here on Friday morning Laird Stadium was dry. But as the hours progressed, the rising water of the Cannon River spun the tables on the school's 7,500-seat football stadium.

At 7 a.m. Carleton officials would have told you that they could host a football game, if scheduled to, on Saturday afternoon. But by 9 a.m. an email went out to players on the football team to come down and empty out the locker room. An hour later there was a foot-and-a-half of water on the field, and it was rising fast. 

Southern Minnesota was hit with a monsoon of storms, many local meteorologists likened its arrival as to many winter storms that often hit the state. But this occurred during the warm month of September, not December or January as they often do. If this storm had struck the region in the winter months it could have packed a crippling amount of snow ranging from 30 inches in the Twin Cities to over 100 inches in Amboy, Minn., midway between Mankato (home to Bethany Lutheran and nearby to Gustavus Adolphus and Martin Luther) and Interstate 90.

But the 73-year old Laird Stadium isn't the only victim to Carleton athletics. Next to the field is the West Gym, home to basketball, volleyball and swimming. By 4 p.m. Saturday the basement had "about 3.5 feet of water," said Sports Information Director Dave Pape. "I didn't have hip-waders on, so that's just an estimate."

The sump pumps were shut off as they just were unable to keep up with the amount of water coming in through the foundation. The basement, a full level below the gymnasium floor, has been used primarily for storage of equipment and is the home to the filter and pumps for the natatorium. Pape added that there may have been some loss of historical archives, but he was not sure to what extent.

Student-athletes had been helping take as much out as they could that was not already lost to the rising water. He is confident that the water will not rise high enough to reach the gymnasium floor -- a situation, should it occur, could very well be devastating to Carleton hosting any more home events in volleyball or basketball.

And past the gym, a little further upstream is the football and men's soccer practice field. In the middle of that field sits a regulation soccer goal, with all but the last foot of the eight-foot tall frame underwater. (Soccer is played on a field across campus, on higher ground.)

Carleton's practice field
Carleton's practice field is on the other side of the gymnasium, on lower ground.
Photo by Ryan Coleman,

Three bridges that directly connect the campus to the western part of town, where fellow Division III school St. Olaf sits on much higher ground, have been closed by the National Guard. The city has declared a state of emergency and Division Street (which runs along the side of Laird Stadium, the West Gym and the practice field) is open only to campus traffic and is closed beyond the library parking lot. Laird also has 22 dorm rooms nearby, with 30 students living in them. They have been evacuated, although their living arrangements were unclear.

Former athletic director Leon Lunder, a Northfield resident since 1950, told Pape that he has never seen water reach Laird Stadium before.

But what does this leave Carleton with? They have their homecoming scheduled next Saturday against Augsburg at 1 p.m.. School president Steven Poskanzer is insistent that Laird Stadium will host homecoming on time but athletic director Gerald Young told WCCO-TV on Saturday that may not happen.

"I think it's a long shot. That's why at the beginning of the week we are going to look at what some of the other options of what we have to do. We would love to get out here for homecoming, but I think it's a real long shot."

On Monday it became official: Although the water had receded by about two feet already, the game against Augsburg was moved to Northfield High School's Memorial Field with a 1 p.m. kickoff. 

Contributing: Larry Radloff,