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Infestation of termites found as Elma grandstands torn down

Brendan Carl | The Vidette A high-rise demolition machine rips through the Davis Field grandstands last week. The structure had stood since the 1940s.Buy Photo
Brendan Carl | The Vidette A high-rise demolition machine rips through the Davis Field grandstands last week. The structure had stood since the 1940s.

When Elma School District officials reluctantly made the decision to tear down the deteriorating Davis Field grandstands, they knew it had serious structural problems, but they didn’t know the problems were as big — or little — as it turned out.

The grandstands, which have housed Elma High School fans since 1949 and watched over two state football championship teams and numerous soccer games, were reduced to a pile of rubble last week.

It was then that demolition crew discovered the “small” problem — termites. Turns out, not only were the grandstands structurally deficient, they were also infested.

Partway through the tear down, the crew found live termites in the roof portion of the structure.

“We were not aware of that,” said district Superintendent Howard King, noting that this simply reinforces the school board’s decision to tear it down as soon as possible. “We knew it was in really, really bad shape to start with, but then we find out it was in even worse shape. It was surprising, but it made the decision even more prudent. I always felt we were doing the right thing.”

Although the project looked to move smoothly, the crew did run into another snag through the demolition.

In addition to the termites, one of the light poles for the stadium’s lighting system was placed flush with the back of the grandstands. When the crew dug into the ground to see how deep the pole was planted, they found it was only a few inches into the ground and that the pole was mostly held up by being bolted into the back of the grandstands.

A crew from WM Dickson Company of Tacoma began demolishing the structure on Thursday. Machinery cut into the north grandstand first and moved through a little over half of the entire grandstands before a broken hydraulic line slowed the project. After knocking down the first two sections on Thursday, the crew demolished the southernmost section on Friday.

A crew member hosed down the structure with water to keep down the dust during the demolition.

Dickson Co. was the low bidder for the project with a bid of $75,000.

WM Dickson project manager Demian Hinkle said during a recent Elma School Board meeting that the actual demolition work on the grandstands should take about two weeks with restoration work to follow afterward.

The Elma School District does not currently have plans in place to construct another grandstands after a $8.4 million dollar ballot measure, which would have allowed for the building of a new stadium complex, fell 13 percentage points short of the 60 percent it needed to pass on Feb. 11.