Board decides Elma grandstands will come down

It’s official — the Davis Field grandstands at Elma High School will come down by the end of this school year. The district’s school board voted unanimously in favor of demolishing the grandstands the at its regular meeting Wednesday night.

“It will happen in the spring or early summer I would imagine,” Elma School District Superintendent Howard King told The Daily World of taking down the stands, which are in the range of 70 to 80 years old. “We’ll try to get through the entire school year, or at least through soccer season.”

Ryan Moore, the engineer who completed a feasibility study on the grandstands commissioned by the board, did his first study of the stands in 2008, following a large flood the year before. He said feasibility reports have been completed each year since then and have progressed in their negative evaluation of the grandstands. Each year required repairs have cost between $3,000 and $12,000.

In 2001, major structural repairs cost the district $130,000. Moore said the 2013 evaluation showed serious issues, with repairs estimated to be between $100,000 and $150,000 to keep the grandstands safe for just one more year. He recommended they be demolished.

“That much money and all you’re getting is another year,” he said at the district’s special meeting on the subject on Sept. 26. “We’re simply keeping what we have in place.”

The board has been working on getting the information out on the degredation of the stands that have been used by the district for the past 65 years.

“It served the community well, but had just gotten to the point where it wasn’t economically feasible (to keep the stands),” said King.

King, who has been with the district for the past eight years, said even he has come to feel an attachment to the stands, and will be sad to see them go.

“It’s not a fun decision, that’s for sure,” he said. “There’s a lot of emotion tied to it.”

Now the question is what the board will decide to put up in place of the grandstands. They will decide on the size and scope of the project after community input from a newly formed Facilities Coommittee, put in place on Wednesday.

For now, there are two choices for location. The first is the current location that is plagued by flooding problems, made worse by the placement of the freeway that was developed after the stands. The other is a piece of land that is about 20 acres directly west of the district’s elementary school, which is on higher ground.

No decision has yet been made on what exactly the district will ask voters to decide on, but it will likely include a new full-usage athletic facility with up to 1,500 covered seats (there are currently 800 at Davis), artificial turf for year-round usage by multiple sports and increased parking.

Fifteen-hundred seats is the limit for hosting Washington Interscholastic Activities Association state playoff games, but is also called for due to frequent overflow crowds at the current stadium, according to Moore.

The board will consult with the Facilities Committee, which will have its first meeting at the district office next Thursday, Oct. 17, at 6 p.m.

“We’ll have to wait and see what comes from the facilities’ committee, what are the pros and cons,” said King. “The main interest would be to do what is best for all of the kids, not just in terms of football, but our growing soccer community as well.”

In the meantime, the district will work toward a solution that will satisfy its needs, including continuing to try to keep voters informed. The district failed two attempts to pass ballot measures regarding the Davis Field stadium in 2010 and 2011. King said there is also the possibility the district will look to a bond measure or grants to aid in its effort.