Opinion

EDITORIAL: Pick stadium site for voters

Oak Harbor residents showed they care deeply about Memorial Stadium by turning out in droves last week for the first of four meetings on the high school stadium.

In this case, “droves” translates into about 80 concerned citizens, who are now part of the “team” the school district will use to discuss stadium options. Far fewer people turned out last year for meetings about the ill-fated high school remodel bond, so there’s obviously a lot of public interest in the dilapidated old stadium that will have to be rebuilt either at its present location or somewhere else.

At the first meeting, an informal vote was taken on what site is preferred. This may have been a premature idea, as the historic site at Midway Boulevard and Whidbey Avenue finished a distant second in the voting. The final count favored the high school site by nearly a four-to-one margin.

This isn’t a surprising development. The high school site was also favored by the designers of the twice-failed bond issue, which included money for a new stadium. After all, it makes perfect sense to have the football field next to the high school. More than 60 percent of the school administrators think so, more than 60 percent of the building consultants think so, more than 60 percent of school board members and school volunteers think so, and now more than 60 percent of the new stadium “team” thinks so. But so far they haven’t gotten 60 percent of the voters to think so. And that’s the only 60 percent that really matters.

There is a strong feeling in this community that Memorial Stadium should be rebuilt at its present location, something that can be done if the school district works together with the city to provide the necessary space. People who tend to feel this way are older with strong ties to the community, and they’re the ones who vote. Their feelings shouldn’t be shunted aside quite so quickly.

So let the siting decision wait a while. Talk about what kind of stadium is needed, how much money the community might be willing to spend for a stadium, and then thoroughly explore where voters really want the stadium to be located. One thing we can’t risk is the failure of a stadium bond issue because nobody stopped to think what the people who vote will support.

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