April 01, 2023

Creston didn’t host the party after all

Imagine inviting the entire town of Lenox to Creston for an evening.

And you seat and feed them in the high school gym.

That was what Creston Community High School officials were facing, in terms of numbers, late last week before the decision was made to relocate the Bondurant-Farrar vs. Harlan boys basketball game to determine who goes to the state tournament. That game, played Monday, was originally scheduled to be at Creston. But the number of expected fans kept growing and it got to a point where Creston wasn’t comfortable. State officials moved the game to the expansive Waukee High School. About 1,500 fans between the two schools were to be in attendance.

“We like to help. We like to host. Our gym may be smaller, but we still want to help the state,” said Creston Activities Director Scott Driskell Monday.

Driskell, who is in his fourth year, said this year was no different than any other. State athletic officials ask schools if they would like to host a tournament game. Driskell said he doesn’t want to say no, as long as the Panthers are not playing which might conflict schedules. He said the state also does its part to make sure there are not overlapping dates with schools and teams.

“We hosted Grand View and Lenox last week,” he said about the 1A matchup of smaller attended schools. “As of Saturday (Feb. 18), we thought we were hosting Mount Ayr and Madrid (played Feb. 21). Sunday, that got moved to a different school. We usually host 1A schools because the size of our gym. You don’t know until the 11th hour.”

After monitoring Bondurant-Farrar’s season, Driskell did have his wonders about hosting the 3A game between the Blue Jays and Harlan. After the Blue Jays defeated Clarke last Thursday, the game was still on in Creston. He started calling the people needed to run the scoreboards, janitors and concession stand.

Then the clock struck the 11th hour.

“Bondurant-Farrar reached out to us,” Driskell said. “We are expecting, and not having been to state in a long time, up to 1,000 people at this game,” he said he was told. “And I know Harlan travels well,” Driskell added. “I don’t know if we can accommodate. The last thing you want to do is they all show up and we have no seats or we have to turn people away.” Driskell said the Creston gym can seat about 800 for basketball games. More can get in, but it changes the look and comfort of fans.

Driskell said he told the state his concerns for Creston not able to comfortably provide what was needed for that game.

“The state was understanding,” he said.

Driskell was contacted by the state the game was being moved to Waukee High School which has a gym that holds 2,500.

“That happens a little more than anticipated,” he said about schools not able to seat the forecast crowd. “When Nodaway Valley hosted Madrid and Mount Ayr, they didn’t have enough room and had people stand along the walls.” Driskell said rural schools probably face that challenge more than the state’s urban schools.

During the COVID influenced 2020-2021 school year, Creston hosted a tournament game, but COVID limited the seating to 500.

“There was room, but it was full,” he said.

Appetites and cash boxes would have been full too Monday. Driskell said a good night for the concession stand just for multiple Friday night Creston games is $1,800. That may be more depending upon the opponent; Harlan being an example. During the Creston wrestling season, the total concession stand revenue between the Panther tournament and the following day youth tournament was close to $6,000.

“A lot of our concession stand supplies are from local vendors. Over the course of a season, they will see it too,” he said. Fans who might not want concession stand food have other choices in Creston.

Last year, Creston Community School District twice asked voters to approve a $20 million plus bond issue for building improvements across the district. A second, competitive-use gym was included in the list. Voters defeated the proposal each time.

“During the bond issue, there was no rendering for the gym as it’s expensive,” Driskell said. “But our goal was to have 1,500 seats.”

Driskell said a good comparison for Creston’s wants would be Winterset High School’s gym and its 1,700 seats.

“Winterset is our target, or something like that. We don’t need Waukee, but we need something bigger.”

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.