Loggers GM confident 2020 season will happen with fans in stands

The Loggers front office is confident they can pull off a 2020 season with fans at Copeland Park.

WKBT News 8 Now Sports Director Ken Kosirowski spent time virtually with Loggers GM Ben Kapanke, who’s working with the rest of the Northwoods League franchises on how to make a season work in a pandemic. One Northwoods League team earlier this week tweeted that plans were being made for a return with fans in the stands as early as June 15, and according to Kapanke, that is indeed a possibility.

“There are some targeted dates the league is putting together,” Ben Kapanke said. “With [Bismarck Larks GM] John [Bollinger] mentioning that June 15th date, that’s one option. There’s other options maybe by July 1.”

He says the season might even extend to Labor Day to adjust to the later start. The Loggers and each team are all working with their local health officials these days to see what’s recommended. Kapanke says a lot will look different this summer, but a Northwoods League season without fans will not be something you’ll see.

“We’re a business that completely revolves around social gatherings,” Kapanke said. “We can’t do curbside baseball or play games without fans. We need people in the ballpark to make our model work, from selling tickets to concessions to sponsorships. We’re putting together as of right now a readiness plan we’ll be having on our website and available at the ballpark, as far as guidelines that we’re going to take in the ballpark for fans to feel safe.”

With states like Wisconsin and Iowa more open at this point than other states that house teams, I asked Kapanke if the Loggers might get to start playing games earlier.

“Everything’s on the table.” he said. “I don’t think it’s a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. I think the league is going to do whatever it can to get as many games in as they can, and wherever that fits. If it’s more games in Wisconsin to start, and then once Minnesota clears later in the summer, knock on wood, we can play more games on the Minnesota side.”

Their readiness plan that’s in the works does include guidelines to social distance fans and players at the ballpark once the season is set to begin. The bottom line for Kapanke though is a 2020 season isn’t a question of if it can happen. It’s just a matter of when.

“For us in the office, that’s how confident we are,” Kapanke said. “Working with local municipality–the mayor, parks and rec department, county health–we feel very confident after having conversations with them and the support they’re showing to us with our readiness plan, with games starting later in the summer, that we can carry out and execute games at the ballpark.”