Proposed stadium upgrades form controversial part of bond
March 27, 2012
By Tom Corrigan
From the beginning of the discussions over the upcoming school bond issue, Issaquah School District officials have admitted funding for millions in improvements to athletic fields in the district might be a hard sell to voters.
“We’re not doing anything outlandish,” said Steve Crawford, district director of capital improvements.
Crawford made the comment in September, answering questions from the school board prior to its vote to place the bond issue on the ballot.
At the same meeting, board members talked about issues of equity, saying they couldn’t appear to be playing favorites among the schools if they expected the bond to pass. One chief example held up was the plan to renovate the stadium at Skyline High School. The revamping will put the school on equal footing with other high schools in the district, said board member Chad Magendanz, who has since become president of the board.
The blueprint for Skyline
Under the plan that eventually won approval from the board, Skyline’s stadium would receive the most attention, at least in terms of dollars, getting a $6.4 million makeover.
“The problems we have are capacity and safety,” Ryan Gilbert, Skyline athletic director, said.
With safety in mind, except for a few top rows, officials removed all of the seats from the student section of the home side of the stadium. Those seats were loose, rusty and a hazard, according to Gilbert and others. Space is also an issue. While Skyline’s Spartans seem a fixture in the state football playoffs, they can’t host a playoff game without renting extra bleachers to meet state athletic association space requirements. But the extra stands are usually set up for weekly games, as well, Gilbert said. All in all, the school spent about $12,000 last year to rent bleachers, he added.
Deconstructing the bond
A four-part series about the Issaquah School District’s proposed $219 million bond.
Part 1 of 4: How the bond could impact schools
Part 2 of 4: The plan to rebuild schools
Part 3 of 4: The plan for renovation
Part 4 of 4: The plan to upgrade stadiums
Currently, Skyline stadium seats 1,956, with 1,223 seats on the home-side bleachers. Skyline’s is the only high school stadium in the district with uncovered home-side stands. Under the renovation plans, home-side seating would grow to 2,500 and would be covered.
One other space problem at Skyline involves restrooms. The school regularly rents portable units, Gilbert continued.
Besides the added seating, Skyline also would receive additional restrooms, a new press box, added concession space and weatherproof storage.
Liberty bleachers to be converted
At Liberty High School, plans call for converting the home-side bleachers to the visitor’s side. New, covered home stands would seat about 2,000 with a new press box on the west side of the field. Total cost: $4.8 million.
Presently, Liberty’s home-side, covered stands seat about 1,400.
“We are way beyond capacity,” Liberty Principal Mike DeLetis said.
He talked about seeing high schools, including the sports stadiums, as assets for the whole community. He said he enjoys seeing parents or even grandparents who once attended or played for Liberty in the stands watching their children or grandchildren on the field.
“It really is a community space,” he said.
Like Skyline, Liberty needs to rent bleachers in order to host play-off games. DeLetis said he likes the idea of Liberty being able to host regional play-off games not involving Liberty teams. The school would collect extra dollars from concession sales, he said.
Liberty Athletic Director Porter Stark said he believes the revamped stadium would pump up the school’s athletes and students. The new Liberty stadium would be on a par with other area stadiums inside and outside of the district, he added.
Porter also looks forward to eventual replacement of the natural turf on the school’s baseball fields. He described as a huge improvement the artificial turf installed on the infield of one baseball diamond last year. Putting new turf on the school’s other diamond would even out those fields, he said.
Issaquah would get modest facelift
Coming off a rebuild of the entire school, Issaquah High School sports fields would receive the most modest facelift of the three high schools. The project carries a price tag of $1.9 million.
The school’s home-side stand would increase to approximately 2,100 from 1,500. Visitor-side seating would increase to 1,100 from 350. As at Liberty and Skyline, the school would receive a renovated press box.
During discussions of the bond package, school board member Brian Deagle described as “perfect” the atmosphere at an Issaquah High football game held at its current stadium. He commented that stadiums at Skyline and Liberty clearly are in need of refurbishing, but he didn’t necessarily feel the same about the Issaquah stadium.
Deagle later relented and voted with the majority of the board to place the bond issue before voters, including the stadium plans. He declined to comment further for this article.
“My vote in favor of the entire package is my definitive statement,” he said in an email.
The improvements to Issaquah stadium have the support of the Issaquah High School Booster Club.
“The reasons for our full endorsement are many,” Patti Sheehan, president of the booster board, said. “As board members, we regularly witness the strong role that sports and activities play in the high school experience. Sports teams and many other clubs and groups regularly use the stadium or enjoy the stadium as fans coming together as a school community to support a team or event.”
Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.