News

Memorial Stadium comes down

A piece of Oak Harbor history is no more, as a wrecking crew tore down the bleachers at Memorial Stadium this week, after the school board finally decided they were not repairable.

Local construction manager Corey Johnson told the Oak Harbor school board Monday that after carefully examining options for repairing the Memorial field bleachers versus the cost of new construction he decided the bleachers were not worth saving after all.

“I feel the best option is to go with new bleachers,” Johnson said.

Johnson and a team of construction experts have been working since mid-October to determine if the structure could be saved. The school board postponed a decision on the fate of the bleachers until Johnson had completed his investigations.

In presenting his findings to the school board Nov. 10, Johnson estimated the cost of retrofitting the bleachers at $156,121, compared to an estimated $347,629 for new bleachers.

Since then he contacted two bleacher manufacture companies, and found a “basic bleacher” could be installed for just under $200,000.

Johnson’s decision was also influenced by reading a Consumer Product Safety Commission guide to retrofitting bleachers.

“After our review of this document we feel the best option would be to purchase new aluminum bleachers as opposed to retrofitting the existing bleachers,” he told the board.

The board’s reaction: “It’s time to tear ‘em down,” Kathy Jones said.

“I think we have exhausted all possibilities,” Rick Schulte, schools superintendent, said.

Schulte gave the board another reason for demolishing the old bleachers. The school district attorneys told him while new bleachers would come with a warranty, renovated bleachers would not.

“There are so many unknowns with the renovated bleachers,” he said.

Three Kings Construction has finished the tear down and clean up at North Whidbey Middle School, but district construction manager Gary Goltz persuaded them the leave their equipment for a few more days, until after the school board meeting. They were able to add on the Memorial Stadium job for a little under $23,000.

Schulte told the board that technically they did not have to approve the demolition, as it could be done as a change order with his consent. But the board was in agreement, it was time for the bleachers to go.

They did not decide exactly what would replace the bleachers, or how long the field would be used as the main sports site. The future of Memorial Field is tied with the future of a sports complex at the high school, which the board agreed was the favored long-term site.

The board reached a consensus on some of what they would like to see at a permanent site. In addition to the high school location, they favored an artificial surface, a track surrounding the playing field, and a budget in the $4 million range.

Jones and Kathy Chalfant expressed concern about doing any major project at the high school before addressing the high school remodel.

Schulte said the board will now move ahead with developing a set of specifications for new bleachers, and will be seeking community involvement in that process.

The goal, he said, is to have new bleachers in place by the start of the fall sports season.

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

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