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Stadium team gets rebellious

Last week the Oak Harbor Stadium Team told the school board they wanted the new stadium to be the Taj Mahal. This week Superintendent Rick Schulte offered them aluminum bleachers.

That’s when participants got restless.

“I may not have accurately anticipated the strength of the desire for a more adequate option,” Schulte said Thursday. “In the face of earlier bond election losses, I may be reducing my expectations too far.”

In the ongoing effort to come up with a plan for replacing the grandstand at Memorial Stadium, Schulte passed out a list of possible components for a new stadium at Wednesday’s community-based Stadium Team meeting. Tops on the list was a 1,500 seat aluminum bleacher. A more permanent concrete structure was not listed at all.

Participants were then asked to prioritize a lengthy list of components based on how much money they were willing to spend, or thought the district could come up with. One frustrated parent simply scrawled across the worksheet, “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all!”

The big ticket items on the list included a 1,500 seat aluminum grandstand for $3 million to $5 million, artificial turf for $900,000 to $1.2 million, a new track for $300,000 to $400,000 and a roof over the home grandstand for $300,000 to $500,000.

Schulte explained the list was only a “best guess” of cost estimates, and that the goal for the evening was simply to prioritize the spending. If participants wanted more seating, they could double the cost given for 1,500 seats.

Aluminum bleachers were offered as the cheapest and fastest type of bleachers to install. Schulte said they could later be replaced and/or moved to another location.

“If we want something in place by September 2004, I think that is the only option.” he said.

Corey Johnson, of Island Construction, has proposed another option, that of repairing the existing grandstand. He has been working all week with engineers to determine the viability of retrofitting the grandstand to bring it up to code. He will share his findings and recommendation with the school board at the Nov. 10 meeting. The board is also expected to make a decision on the stadium at that meeting.

Robert Boyd, senior planner for the city of Oak Harbor, felt the grandstand replacement process was backwards, and that the team should decide what components they wanted first, where it would be situated, then how to pay for it.

“We shouldn’t be discussing costs at all,” he told the group. “By looking at the money first we are losing sight of what components we want.”

Joe Mosolino, long time Citizens for Better Schools volunteer, reminded Wednesday’s participants that it was difficult to pass a bond in Oak Harbor.

“We need to make a proposal that is palatable and passable,” he said.

Schulte said he would take “the blame” for the sequencing of the meetings, from location, to cost, then components and final proposal.

“You have to start somewhere, and realize all these decisions are intertwined.”

Business owner Ray Raimundi became so frustrated with the lack of consensus during the first hour of the meeting, which was devoted to open discussion, that he walked out to cool off.

When he returned, he told the group that they needed to be the ambassadors to the community, and that would take a unified front.

“I want all of us to be facing the same direction,” he said. He urged the group to take on the challenge of talking to other community members to instill a sense of ownership in the stadium project.

At the conclusion of the meeting Schulte gave a homework assignment: the group was to come up with four proposals, which will be discussed at the final meeting next Wednesday.

The school district continues to host an online survey of the stadium and high school remodel issue on the district Web site, www.ohsd.org

Schulte said they hope to get 2,000 responses in order to get a more accurate representation of public opinion.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611

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