In one week last March, the Gophers hosted the Cambria College Classic in baseball and the Gopher Indoor Classic in softball at U.S. Bank Stadium. Twenty-four games total, played by 12 different programs. Hawaii and Ole Miss came for baseball; Idaho State and Central Michigan for softball.

That will not happen this year.

New turf is being installed at the stadium over the next several weeks, and the installation and adaptation period will prevent any baseball and softball from being played there this winter.

College teams have routinely played inside U.S. Bank at this time of year because, well, where else are they going to play around here in February and March? The original stadium plan earmarked tens of millions of dollars to convert the football field into a different ballfield. That included retractable seats in right field that form a 34-foot-high wall and repurposed shipping containers used for dugouts. It was working well, until this year.

And there's no guarantee for 2025 either. Some believe the future of batted ball sports at The Bank is in doubt. This is already affecting several local programs and hundreds of college players who won't have a local early season indoor option.

Anyone who follows local baseball knows that college games were being played as early as 5 a.m. and as late as midnight at the old Metrodome. This was supposed to continue at the $1.1 billion home of the Vikings. Future access could be severely reduced, perhaps eliminated.

"I am concerned that's what will happen," Gophers baseball coach John Anderson said.

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Anderson spoke last week as his team prepared to head to Arizona to begin the season. This week, the Gophers are in Florida and will play the Twins in an exhibition game Friday. Anderson is used to having a six-week window to schedule games at U.S. Bank Stadium. This year it is zero weeks as ASM Global, the operator of the stadium, swaps out the turf. But there are rumblings that the typical six-week window could be cut down by two-thirds in 2025 so it can host a bigger event.

Anderson wasn't the only college coach/official I've spoken to about this. Area colleges are wondering whether baseball and softball are being phased out of the stadium's plans. ASM Global is looking to generate revenue. And amateur baseball doesn't generate as much revenue as a monster truck show (one of those was held at the stadium last weekend).

The Vikings have nothing to do with this kerfuffle. ASM Global and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Authority have say over the schedule.

The fact that this is even a possibility is troubling. In these parts, folks don't let the winter stop them. They bundle up to watch outdoor hockey games, sit in icehouses to fish and swing away at golf simulators.

And, to keep up with programs from warmer parts of the country, baseball and softball teams head indoors. The Dome was vital for local baseball and softball. So was U.S. Bank, before this year.

This is about more than the Gophers. Hamline played four baseball games at U.S. Bank last March. This year, they will be in Indianola, Iowa. On March 6 of last year, Augsburg and Macalester each played a doubleheader at the stadium. There were 17 days of baseball or softball scheduled there last March.

There is a written agreement between the stadium and the Minnesota State High School League that the place is available for prep football and soccer tournament games. There is no written agreement for college baseball and softball, and someone appears to be taking advantage of that.

Anderson estimated it will cost the university $250,000 more in travel for not being able to play in U.S. Bank Stadium — a figure that should get the attention of athletic director Mark Coyle. The Gophers will play 22 road games before playing host to South Dakota State at Siebert Field on April 2. And Gophers softball: 37 road games to start the season before its home opener April 5 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. Smaller colleges will have their travel budgets stretched as well as they either go on extended spring breaks or spend more time in Topeka, Kan., where Hamline and Bethel are scheduled to be part of a tournament this weekend.

Michael Vekich, the chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Authority, was contacted for comment. Instead of a return call, a statement was provided, pointing out that it has hosted over 600 baseball games since 2016.

"The MSFA and ASM Global are committed to working with the baseball and softball community for future seasons beginning again with the 2025 spring sports season," it ended.

Anderson is not optimistic about what negotiations will produce.

"There's still dialogue," he said. "We sent a proposal in December and they just responded. It's not what we wanted."

When former Gov. Mark Dayton pitched a new stadium plan in 2011, he envisioned "a people's stadium."

The future better include baseball and softball people.