Finlandia prepares field of dreams/Paul Peterson

In the popular movie “Field of Dreams,” the major line in the movie is: “If you build it, they will come.”

That would appear to be the philosophy for the expanded Finlandia University athletic program.

FU announced the hiring of a football, hockey and men’s basketball coach this past week, concluding what has been a whirlwind past few months at the university.

In that time, Finlandia has unveiled plans for additions and improvements at McAfee Field, and for adding several new sports in the next five years.

It’s an ambitious project – particularly the football program – for the Division III Lions.

Athletic director Chris Salani has done a great deal of homework in putting together this project. And he’s to be commended for that work, which he hopes will conclude with gaining conference affiliation.

Salani has brought in three very qualified coaches in Tim Driscoll, Mike O’Donnell and Dane Litke to run the football, men’s basketball and men’s hockey programs respectively.

Driscoll comes over from Michigan Tech, where he was the defensive coordinator for the past 10 seasons. The Marquette native has some definite ideas on how to get Finlandia ready for a Sept. 5, 2015 opener at home against Alma College, a school has been playing football for eight decades.

“We’re going to recruit in the Upper Peninsula and find as many players as possible,” he says. “Our goal is to win as quickly as possible.”

O’Donnell, a former FU basketball standout, also will build his team around U.P. products.

“I feel there are enough good players up here to win,” said O’Donnell, who played on a 2001 championship squad comprised almost entirely of U.P. players.

Litke, who played at North Dakota, almost certainly will have to recruit out of the area. There are some fine prep players up here, but there’s only a handful of schools playing the sport.

Finlandia, with approximately 560 students, will no doubt see an increase in enrollment with the addition of football and the other sports.

The addition of a new softball field planned at the McAfee Complex could add an extra dimension for sports in the area.

But unless our springs (is there such a thing?) improve, the FU teams won’t be getting much use out of it.

A sudden explosion of girls’ softball in the area has resulted in several high schools starting up teams. Those teams, who play a little later into the year, could well benefit from having a lighted field.

There’s even been talking of using the field for future regional tournaments, and local women’s softball squads might even use it.

Finlandia already has more than adequate facilities for basketball with Paavo Nurmi Gym, and hockey with Houghton County Arena.

We’re in a unique situation with MTU and FU in town. You have to go as far west as Duluth, and as far south as mid-Michigan, to find a place with a Division II and Division III teams in the same neighborhood.

Completion of the McAfee Complex will add the final piece to the puzzle for Finlandia.

When all the work is completed, the question will remain: “Will they come?”

Time will be the judge of that.