There’s little doubt that Elma High School needs a new stadium. By best estimates, Davis Field — home of the Eagles — may be up to 80 years old, a better-than-average life expectancy for humans, let alone a wooden stadium.
Now, a new feasibility study commissioned by the Elma School District backs up that notion, citing the facility’s age and location as reasons for replacements. The study goes so far as to state that attempting to refurbish the current stadium would not be the least bit cost-effective to the school district or community and not worth the investment. And that the district ought to consider turf.
Meanwhile, the study also states that due to flooding, the best alternative might be to build a new stadium on 20 acres owned by the district. That land is next to Elma Elementary School and provides enough space for a 1,500-seat stadium and parking for 500 cars.
On top of that, the report states that should a new stadium be built to those specifications, it would also be a good idea to install an all-weather turf field, which would make the stadium eligible to host regional and state playoff games in several sports and other regional sporting events, such as youth soccer tournaments, all of which would be revenue generators for the district and new facility.
“There’s a lot of things in there to think about,” Elma School District Superintendent Howard King said of the report, which was presented to the Elma School Board on Sept. 11. “We would have to pass a bond or a levy, but first we have to see what people (in the community) want to do.”
To that end, King said the district will hold a meeting on Wednesday to get input from school boosters, the athletic community and citizens. The meeting will be conducted at 6 p.m. at the high school.
The school district has attempted to pass a couple ballot measures before regarding the stadium, but failed both times — in fall of 2010 and spring of 2011 — to reach the 60 percent threshold required to pass a bond measure.
Key points of Elma School District football stadium study include:
• Repair of the decades-old grandstand is “not fiscally responsible.”
• A 1,500-seat stadium should be built to provide enough capacity to host Washington Interscholastic Athletics Association events such as district and state playoffs in various field sports.
• All-weather turf should be installed to reduce cost, maintenance and unplayable conditions.
• The grandstand is at least 80 years old, though actual age is unknown.
• The frame is built from old-growth Douglas fir. The quality of the timber framing used for the structure is a large part of why grandstands are still standing today.
• Grandstands already underwent major structural retrofit in 2008, which cost $130,000. Inspection report then noted repairs were temporary in nature and structure would continue to deteriorate.
• Over the past five years, repairs ranging from $3,000 to $12,000 have been required.
• More parking is needed. Parking for 500 vehicles would be optimal.
• The field and lowest levels of the grandstand have been subject to flooding multiple times. The most recent flood events happened in 1996, 200 and 2007.
• Should a new field be built in the same location, it would either need to be raised above flood level or flood-proofed, adding additional costs of 15 to 20 percent. Artificial turf cannot be used in the current location because any flooding would cause silt to damage field and clog drainage system underneath, resulting in extensive repair costs.
• Needed repairs to roof and south wall are estimated to exceed $200,000. Once the value of the repair exceeds half the replacement value of current structure ($422,100) then building codes in Elma would kick in, requiring full code upgrade of the entire facility.
1) Davis Field grandstands should not be repaired in 2014. The cost of repair will not be commensurate with the value gained by the district or community.
2) The bare-minimum alternative would be to tear down the current grandstands and build a minimalist set-up of prefabricated bleachers on a concrete slab there. A steel, shed-type cover would be installed, but the facility could only be used portions of the year based on the grass playing surface conditions. Flood-risistent materials would be used, but bathrooms and concession stands would have to be part of a separate facility nearby.
3) A new full-usage facility should be constructed at a location above the flood plain. The money spent on studies, field upgrades, flood proofing and permitting would be better spent on a new facility at a different location.
4) Any new full-usage facility should be built at a location where full parking is provided and accessibility of the building is an original part of the design.