We knew when the season started that the Iowa High School Athletic Association would need to find a new host for its state baseball tournaments. The Tournaments have been played at Principal Park in Des Moines – home of the Iowa Cubs – since 2005, but the new Minor League Baseball schedule conflicted with the already scheduled tournament, forcing the IHSAA to make changes.
“We greatly appreciate the work of the Iowa Cubs and Principal Park staff over the last 16 state tournaments, especially with last year’s health protocols and late adjustments,” Todd Tharp, IHSAA Assistant Director and Baseball Co-Administrator
Speculation has been circulating on the one-year change, and high school activities directors received confirmation recently that the tournament would ‘more than likely’ be played at two separate locations. Those rumors were confirmed Thursday morning when the IHSAA announced that Carroll’s Merchants Park and Duane Banks Field in Iowa City would play host to the baseball championships this summer.
“The last 15 months have been filled with changes and constantly evolving plans, and this tournament is no exception. We’re excited to have two high-quality hosts in Carroll and the University of Iowa where our student-athletes can make memories and compete for state championships.” – Tom Keating, IHSAA Executive Director
Merchants Park isn’t a stranger to the tournament. The historical stadium hosted the IHSAA’s Class A State Baseball Tournament in 1970 and again in 1973. Following some restructuring and the addition of eight teams to the tournament in 1995, Carroll Baseball Stadium – its name at the time – hosted two of the four classes. The stadium was renovated and renamed in 2011 to Merchants Park, the title before 1965. This year, the park will host the Class 1A and 2A tournaments to be played with the following format: Class 1A quarterfinals on July 26, Class 2A quarterfinals on July 27, semifinals for both classes on July 28, and finals on July 29.
Eastern Iowa will host the large schools at first-time host Duane Banks Field in Iowa City, the home of the Iowa Hawkeyes. According to the Iowa High School Athletic Association, the stadium seats 2,300 spectators at 100 percent capacity and was recently renovated in 2015. The stadium is known to locals as ‘Banks’ and features a complete AstroTurf playing surface. It opened in 1974 and was named after former Iowa Coach Duane Banks in 2001. Banks went 901-585-4 as the Hawkeyes head man from 1970-1997. He helped Iowa to conference titles in 1972, 1974, and 1990. The Class 3A tournament will open play with quarterfinals on July 28th and Class 4A taking the field on July 29th for their quarterfinals. The semifinals for both classes will take place on July 30th, with championship games scheduled for July 31st.
A person close to the situation did tell KIOW that Veterans Memorial Stadium – host of the Single-A Cedar Rapids Kernels – was also a possible host site but rejected the IHSAA request to play host to part of the tournament. Cost Cutters Field at Riverfront Stadium is also said to have requested to play a part in the tournament but was rejected by the IHSAA. Riverfront in Waterloo is home to the Waterloo Bucks and allows high school baseball teams to play regular-season games at Cost Cutters Field throughout the summer. North Iowa played their first two games of the season there this year; Forest City also played a regular-season game against Dubuque Hempsted at the field in 2014.
As with other tournaments over the past year, the IHSAA will sell tickets digitally through their Tickets page. They will cost $10 per two-game session at each site, according to the IHSAA. They also said quarterfinal and semifinal dates would feature four games daily, with each session consisting of the two early games and the two later games. Tickets for all sites and sessions will be general admission.