Editorial: It’s a night for the ages

  • Wednesday, September 5, 2007 4:00pm
  • Opinion

Has there ever been a bigger Friday night in Oak Harbor’s history? Definitely not, in terms of a single event that will make an enormous difference to the community.

Friday, Sept. 7, is the grand opening of the new Wildcat Memorial Stadium. Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. with a ribbon cutting, followed by dedication of the Veterans’ Memorial at 5:45, entertainment by Navy Band Northwest at 6:00, and then the first game ever in the new stadium as the state 4A champion Oak Harbor Wildcats take on the Arlington Eagles at 7:05 p.m. Cheering on the team and leading the purple-and-gold-clad crowd will be the 2007 state champion Wildcat cheerleaders. It promises to be a spectacle unlike any other in Oak Harbor’s long, illustrious history.

This week business people are donning school colors in their offices and thousands of alumni and other fans are making plans to arrive early Friday night to enjoy the entire scope of the activities. A standing-room-only crowd of thousands of people will enjoy the amenities of Wildcat Memorial Stadium for the first time.

With its artificial surface, covered seating for both the home and visiting crowds, sufficient restrooms and bright lighting, the new stadium will be an enormous improvement over the old War Memorial Stadium. While it’s sad to see the old stadium’s days come to an end, that’s the nature of things. Friday night is a time to celebrate the new, not lament the loss of the old.

Only four years ago, in May 2003, the mood in Oak Harbor was distinctively different. The high school remodel bond proposal that included a new stadium had just been defeated for the second time, this time not even garnering half the vote. What to do next? The city was desperate for leadership, a need filled by the Oak Harbor Noon Rotary Club.

The Rotary set an ambitious goal of raising $1 million for a new high school stadium, and the resulting fundraising effort lifted the community’s spirits. Everyone got involved, a can-do attitude developed, and when the stadium bond went to the voters in 2004, it passed easily. Rotary didn’t achieve its $1 million dollar goal, as the total raised finally topped out at $343,000, almost all in small donations by individuals or businesses. But the change in the community’s attitude was priceless, resulting in passing not only the stadium bond but the subsequent high school remodel bond.

Even with approval of the $6.5 million bond, it wasn’t easy to construct Wildcat Memorial Stadium. Rapidly escalating construction costs caused some project cutbacks and the school board had to dip into other funding sources. But the vision of a modern, fully-functional stadium was never lost, and the fact that it exists today is a testament to the hard work and creativity put in by the school board and administration. All involved did an outstanding job in bringing this new stadium to the community.

There are some people grumbling that the stadium cost too much or perhaps took too much away from other capital improvement projects, but that’s nonsense. Oak Harbor finally has a first-class high school stadium that will provide countless hours of entertainment to the community, teach young people the meaning of sportsmanship and teamwork, and create indelible memories that will last a lifetime for sports fans and athletes alike. You can’t put a price tag on something like that.

Help Oak Harbor make history, go to the stadium and enjoy yourself Friday night. A great time is guaranteed for everyone, except the Arlington Eagles.

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