Friday Night Lights

While the Oak Harbor High School football team eagerly waits to use the new field, workers are scrambling to finish construction.

They have been busy spraying a final coat on the track, installing equipment in the concession area and preparing the base of the memorial for Wildcat Memorial Stadium.

For Bill Sherwood, finishing the concrete base on the five-sided memorial is more than a job. It’s a way to remember his son, Jacob, who is serving on the USS Tarawa in the Navy.

“I feel real good about working on this memorial. I think about my son when I’m rubbing on this concrete,” Sherwood said Thursday.

Workers will also be installing letters over the archway placed over the ticket booths and sandblasting the letters “OH” in the concrete leading to the entrance.

The grand opening Friday night marks the end of the construction that began in January, and the community effort that began years ago. The stadium is largely funded by a $6.5 million bond voters approved in 2005. In addition to the voter-approved measure, the school district also received approximately $500,000 in donations.

Team played major role

An untold number of Oak Harbor citizens have been responsible for promotion, planning and construction of the new Wildcat Memorial Stadium and football coach Dave Ward and the high school football team have played a key role.

“I think there were a lot of factors in the voters deciding that it was important to them to support the stadium project and many people in the community have made a difference in providing this facility,” Ward said. “I think the way the football team has played the past five years is one of the more important factors.” Last year, the team won its first state championship.

Ward said he toured the new stadium Thursday and found it unbelievable how nice it is going to be.

“That new stadium is beautiful,” he said. “I’m sure when we play on it for the first time, there will be a lot of new stadium ‘jitters’ we’ll have to deal with. What the guys will have to realize is a football game is basically played from the inside out and it doesn’t matter what the surroundings are.”

Senior receiver Rodrick Rumble said he was really excited to be playing in the new facility.

“God blessed us with a new stadium and hopefully we can bring back another state championship,” he said.

Jered Wirth, also a senior, echoed Rumble’s words. “It’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s going to be amazing playing on the field.”

Younger players were also anticipating the first time playing on their own turfed field.

“It’s going to be awesome,” sophomore Josh Higbee, in his first year on the varsity squad, said. “Up on the varsity the tempo is a lot higher and its really going to be exciting playing on the new field.”

A veteran player, senior lineman Ben Llewelyn, said it’s going to be really nice playing in front of a big crowd.

“It’s going to be great playing on the new field with the covered stands,” he said. “The old field we played on always turns up a lot of injuries that we won’t have any more. I’m looking forward to playing in the new stadium.”

Senior Ricardo Hernandez, who said he played a little bit on last year’s championship team, summed things up the best. “It’s going to be amazing,” he said, which pretty much sums up the whole community’s attitude.

New stadium

has everything

The new athletic facility features covered bleachers with room for 3,000 spectators and an artificial surface playing field that will allow playoff games to take place in Oak Harbor.

In addition to the field, there is a competition quality track, which means there will be home track meets this spring for the first time in years.

Underneath the grandstand is a concession area, restrooms and locker rooms which can be partitioned off in the event of tournaments.

Wildcat Memorial Stadium also has a memorial belltower commemorating each branch of the military. The metal work that comprises the memorial will be installed in the days before the grand opening.

With a stadium in the middle of a residential neighborhood, the lighting that illuminates the field will be focused on the field and there will be little spillover into the surrounding neighborhood.

“The falloff for light pollution is almost zero,” said Mitch Romero, project manager for the stadium. “All of the illumination stays on the field.”

Wildcat fans will be able to attend the first game at Wildcat Memorial Stadium Friday, Sept. 7, when the football team takes on Arlington.

A ribbon cutting along with the reading the poem “Eyes of the Memorialized” takes place at 5:30 p.m. Oak Harbor High School Senior Andrew Pearce wrote the poem.

The memorial dedication takes place 15 minutes later. That dedication includes the ringing of the bell five times in memory of the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island sailors who died in Iraq. The Navy Band Northwest performs beginning at 6 p.m.

The coin toss along with team introductions begin at 6:45 p.m. and the national anthem is sung at 6:55 p.m.

Prowlers from VAQ 134 will flyover the stadium at 7 p.m. and the game begins at 7:05 p.m.

Following the game, spectators can tour the stadium, walk the track and examine the new field.

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