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SOUNDOFF: Stadium belongs where it is
Memorial Stadium, at the intersection of Midway and Whidbey Avenues, is part of the rich history of Oak Harbor. The site should be retained for varsity football and soccer events. Of course, the site should be improved to provide adequacy for events, honor for its purpose as a memorial and impressiveness as a northern gateway into downtown Oak Harbor. Unfortunately, the high school remodel plan associated with the May 20th bond resolution proposes to relocate varsity events to a new stadium at the high school, leading to further decline of the Memorial Stadium site and downtown Oak Harbor.
Fifty-six years ago, May 3, 1947, the first night baseball game in Oak Harbor was played under the lights at the newly constructed War Memorial Stadium. As reported in the May 8 edition of the Island County Times, Lyle B. Muzzall, chairman of the school board dedicated the Oak Harbor Memorial Stadium to the boys who came back and those who did not come back from the fight to preserve our way of life. Lyle Muzzalls son, Murray Muzzall, was one of the boys who did not come back.
There were at least 128 men and women from North Whidbey who served their nation in various branches of the armed forces during World War II. War Memorial Stadium was a community effort to honor their service. The lighted baseball field and grandstand were built on land donated to the school district in 1911 by the Izett family. In 1954, a football field was added to the site, completing the original plans for the memorial.
Unfortunately, the only use restriction the Izett family placed on the land was that it be used for school purposes. The school district dismantled the baseball field and grandstands in 1974. They added a bus barn, portables and other maintenance buildings. They have minimized the memorial and turned the site into an industrial park.
A new stadium at the high school site is unnecessary and goes against school construction data at http://www.pet
erli.com that indicates in 2002 only 1.8 percent of new high schools had stadiums built on site. The school district should re-examine the proposals contained in the Sept. 24, 1997 study. This report indicated that, given the availability of land, it would be cheaper to relocate the maintenance, operations and transportation facilities than it would be to relocate the stadium. The report factored in the cost of upgrading the current stadium site.
The city owns 60 acres of land on Goldie Road, adjacent to the city transportation department. This land and facility could be shared with school transportation and maintenance units. Shared use of the Goldie Road site would provide the opportunity for better school athletic use of the full 11 acres on the War Memorial Stadium site.
Better school use of the Izett donation land could mean reconstruction of the site as an appropriate memorial and proud site for varsity events. This use would preserve traditions, honor the site and improve the northern entryway into the downtown area. In addition, it would ensure visitors to athletic events would go through town as opposed to going around town, giving downtown business a likely boost.
The school district should not relocate the stadium. They should develop a high school bond plan that includes movement of the bus barn out of downtown Oak Harbor and renovation of Memorial Stadium for varsity events.