About a dozen boosters, parents and staff told The Vidette that they’re prepared to support the construction of a new field and grandstands for the Elma School District — so long as it’s built with artificial turf, is built out of the flood zone and can be used for more than just football.
The biggest recommendation is not to change the name of Davis Field — even if it’s moved.
More than 50 residents, coaches, boosters and parents gathered inside the commons at Elma High School last week to debate the future of Davis Stadium and what steps should be taken next.
About the only thing certain at this point is that the historic grandstands at Davis Field will have to be demolished. The grandstands, built in the 1940s, just no longer function correctly as is, frankly, falling apart, according to Ryan Moore, an engineer hired by the district, who recently completed a feasibility study recommending the grandstands be torn down.
Moore has been in charge of making sure the grandstands can still be used. And just a few days back, he notes, that one of the steps that has consistently been used has cracked.
“That stair must have been used 100,000 times,” Moore said. “But on the 100,001th time it finally broke.”
He notes that’s rather symbolic of the entire stadium.
Superintendent Howard King made the situation very clear, “We need to brace ourselves. It looks like the stadium is going down ASAP.”
The only thing that needs to be determined is whether a new stadium will be built, where at and how much it will all cost.
School Board President Carl Jonsson said those decisions still need to be made. The School Board’s next meeting is 6 p.m., Oct. 9 and the district is moving it to the commons at Elma High School to accommodate a larger crowd.
Jonsson says it’s very likely the board will decide to order that the stadium be torn down at the next School Board meeting and start the process of figuring out what to do next.
“The last few years we’ve been putting Band-Aid after Band-Aid after Band-Aid,” Johnsson said. “And now, because of the feasibility report, we’re going to have to do something. The board doesn’t want to just jump right in. We want to look at all options.”
King noted that after a recent feasibility report, it’s clear that the costs going into the facility are no longer worth it. If anything, the district very well could lose its insurance — or see rates go sky high — if the facility continued to be used.
“We’re going to play football,” Athletic Director Rick Rakevich told the crowd. “We’re going to play soccer — where at, we don’t know.”
At this point, the two big options are to rebuild a new stadium at the existing Davis Field or to move the facilities to school-owned land behind Elma Elementary. King gave a ballpark of about $3 million for a new stadium, field, parking and everything else. The recommendation is to increase the existing capacity of the stadium from about 800 people — which can barely hold a capacity football crowd — to about 1,600 people, specifically so the stadium, can draw playoff events and help make more money for the school district.
Elma resident Aaron Hurd said that he would support a property tax increase to pay for a new multi-use facility at a new, less flood-prone location. But it needed to be done the right way — and that means with turf so it could be used all year. As a student, he remembers being on Davis Field.
“We need to have a sense of urgency,” Hurd said. “We’re in a state of emergency, a crisis. Let’s convey this to the public.”
Hurd and others gathered last week said that the best solution is not to use the current footprint and to just build a new one at a new multi-use facility behind the elementary school.
“I’ve lived here all my life, I’ve played here and sometimes change has got to happen,” Hurd said. “The most economically feasible solution is for an overall sports complex and it definitely has to be multi-use.”
Lisa Sutherby said that her daughter, a senior, plays soccer on the field now and, in two years, another daughter is expected to play soccer for Elma.
“And I do not want to sit in a metal grandstand in the rain watching her play soccer,” she said.
Sutherby said that she would support a property tax increase to pay for a new facility.
“It can’t be here at the high school,” she said. “I’ve accepted that. I will be sad not to see Davis Field sit here, but we can’t function here — with the floods and having to put in a concession stand that would have to be portable. We can’t do that. We should have a facility where we have graduation at, where we can host playoff games, where we can host soccer playoff games.”
Artificial turf is the way to go, she said.
“It’s going to take education, lots of education,” she said. “We need this.”
Diane Hill says she’s seen plenty of mud-soaked fields and flood waters that have ruined the field for weeks.
“We’ve owned that property behind Elma Elementary for 20 years and we’ve never used it,” she said. “I went to Memorial Stadium in Seattle and they had Ballard’s graduation there and a football field and it was great. … Why can’t we do that?”
Hill said that last year someone fell down from the stadium.
“It has to come down to safety,” Hill said. “The gentleman who fell down last year could have turned around and sued. It was terrible, it was on the other side of the stadium, but we could feel it. We need to stop living in the past. The field was built on a cow pasture. It’s time to move on.”
Elma City Councilman Tom Boling, who works for the school district, says that the best bet is to build a new stadium somewhere else.
To just elevate the football field so it no longer floods would cost a rough $750,000 — before grandstands are even built or a new field is installed.
“If you build it here it will cost significantly more money,” Boling said. “Our money will work better for us somewhere else. ... We will have a lot more value for our money.”
Rakevich noted that for the approximate 30 days the current field is used each year, it costs the district roughly $1,000 each time just to set it up. A new field at the elementary school could be used for up to 200 days a year, if not more and would be cheaper to maintain.