News

Rotary rolls ahead with stadium funding

The Noon Rotary Club has started fundraising for a new high school athletic complex, but the effort is not without strings attached.

Retired Adm. Lyle Bull said the group has set a goal of raising $1 million toward the construction of the facility and is now in the process of deciding what they want that money to buy.

“We want a first class facility,” he said.

After the group has decided what they want in an athletic complex they will present their recommendation to the school board. Bull said the presentation will be take it or leave it.

“If the board doesn’t agree with the proposal they won’t get the money,” he said. He explained that while the school board members are free to make any decision they want, the Rotary group has specific ideas about how they want their donated money to be used.

They also feel the current school board has inherited a legacy of community distrust, based on events that happened in the past.

In the early 1960s, Bull said the community tried to raise funds for a covered stadium at Memorial Field, but the money somehow went astray, and the project died.

“I think people have lost confidence in the school board,” he said. “I think we have improved their credibility by getting involved.”

He also cited multiple failed bond efforts in the last few years as evidence of the level of community distrust.

Bull, former high school football coach Duck Daugherty and Ray Johnson, former Oak Harbor football player and now principal at Snohomish High School, have toured five schools in the area to see what works and what doesn’t.

The Rotary group favors a complex at the high school consisting of two baseball fields, a track, eight to 10 tennis courts, a soccer/football field with “Astroplay” artificial turf, covered seating for 2,500 to 3,000, and a classroom under the grandstand which could be used for NJROTC classes.

They would like the project to be done all at once, rather than piecemeal. The school board has considered building the complex in parts as funds are available.

Rotarian Clark Donnell, principal at Oak Harbor Christian School and former marketing consultant, is working to develop a visual presentation package for the project.

The package would contain a conceptual drawing of the project, cost figures and estimates.

“The group felt people needed to see what’s possible,” he said.

In addition to developing a specific design, Bull said the Rotary wants to add a stipulation that if the board decides to go to the voters for bond financing, the athletic complex must stand alone.

“We don’t want to detour our energy in other directions,” he said. “ I think an athletic complex is more important than a new high school. It should have been done years ago.”

Voters twice last year rejected a combined high school-athletic complex package.

Bull noted that Oak Harbor can’t host state meets due to the poor condition of the facilities, and that other schools call Oak Harbor “the ghetto,” when they have to play here. “We need to get this monkey off our back,” he said.

Bull also ties a good athletic program with a good academic program.

“It’s been proven many times, if you establish a good sports program, good teachers will follow,” he said.

The Rotary has set a one year limit on the fundraising effort, and if they and the school board can’t agree on a project, all donated money will be returned.

They are in the process of setting up a fund to accept donations, but anyone wishing to contribute can contact any Noon Rotary member.

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

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