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Stadium proposal to share ballot
"In March, Oak Harbor area voters will be asked to approve a property tax increase to pay for a new sports stadium for school district athletics. Though the proposal has been on the table for a few years, a lot of people still say they don't know much about it.There's no question that the district's 50-year-old Memorial Stadium, just off Midway Boulevard and Whidbey Avenue, is in bad shape. A study in 1997 found that its playing surface is uneven and poorly drained; its locker rooms are too small, uninsulated and damp; and its grandstand are weak and lack safety handrails and handicapped access.But the question remains as to whether local voters, who last spring said no to a school district maintenance and operations levy for things like smaller class size and hot lunch, will get behind a nearly $8 million stadium.Exactly how much the stadium bond will cost taxpayers each year is still being worked out, but the Oak Harbor School Board has already agreed to place the proposal on a March 13 ballot along side a revised $1.5 million M & O levy and a separate $225,000 levy to start a hot lunch program in the district. It's estimated that the stadium bond tax rate will fall somewhere between $0.20 and $0.30 per $1,000 of valuation.Even staunch supporters of the ballot propositions say it won't be easy to get voters to pass all three - particularly in a district that has failed to pass levies fairly consistently for the last 30 years.Others worry that the stadium bond proposal is getting off to a slow start with no organized campaign group in place to push for its passage. So far, that job is being picked up by the Citizens for Better Schools Committee, which formed a year ago to back the district's M & O levy. Though committee members support the stadium proposition, their main focus has been on classroom improvements rather than on extra-curricular activities. They are being backed up by the high school Booster Club.A voter survey done by the district this year showed that a large number of respondents said they didn't have enough information on the proposed new stadium to give it their support. Oak Harbor School District Superintendent Rick Schulte said he would try to have a resolution containing the final price tag ready for school board approval in December. But Schulte warned that the proposal may not be ready until the board's next regular meeting in January which will give campaigners only a couple months to spread their message to voters.What is known is that the old Memorial Stadium, with its uncovered grandstand and inadequate parking is acknowledged by many as the worst facility in the league. Much of the stadium does not meet current building codes or safety standards and its locker rooms have no lockers.The stadium the district wants to build costs in the neighborhood of $7.93 million. That includes covered seating for 3,000, a synthetic turf field, a security and public address system, rest rooms and concessions, a new scoreboard, new lighting. It also includes a new location on the grounds of Oak Harbor High School.A recently developed site plan calls for the stadium to be placed in a north-south alignment on ground currently occupied by the school's baseball fields. Bleachers will be on the west side. Conditions such as wind and the setting sun were taken into account when deciding about the stadium's position. By facing the grandstand eastward, it's hoped that most of the stadium noise and lighting will be directed away from nearby housing to the west.The stadium construction project also includes resurfacing of the high school's tennis courts, relocation and improvements of the baseball fields, facilities for track and field events and additional parking space.It's estimated that the stadium and field could be used for more than 500 activities per year.In 1996 Oak Harbor district voters failed to pass a bond that would have put about $1 million worth of repairs and upgrades into Memorial Stadium. They also rejected a proposal for a district performing arts center. At the same time, however, voters approved a $26 million dollar bond for school construction and renovation.-------------------Field financeA new Oak Harbor athletic stadium is expected to cost nearly $8 million. Here's how the cost estimates break down:Stadium and related site work: $3,116,000Synthetic turf field and track: $1,470,050New main baseball field: $434,770Secondary baseball field: $199,000Resurface existing tennis courts: $27,000Practice soccer and football field: $128,500Parking: $432,500Contingency and soft costs: $2,119,854Total estimate of project costs: $7,927,674 "