The East County Civil War football game between Elma and Montesano is perhaps the only fitting farewell to the grandstands that have served generations of Eagles fans.
Come next school year, the Eagles will follow their on-field rivals and neighbors in the quest for new grandstands, although unlike Montesano, with the sudden loss of the Rottle Field stands following an unexplained fire, Elma has a chance to say goodbye.
After standing for 70 to 80 years, 65 of them in use for the Elma School District, the Davis Field grandstands are expected to come down by the end of the school year. The annual rivalry game was the last time Eagles football would be played before the existing stands, although other sports will still have their swan songs.
Students packed the stands for the Civil War and senior night on Friday, offering deafening cheers.
“It’s the rowdiest it’s been,” senior Mac Miller said.
“I grew up in Elma, and I’ve been to every football game since I was young,” senior Kara Pacheco said. “I’m going to miss it.”
The night seemed less bittersweet for longtime fans, who were more focused on hopes and fears for the future.
Self-described “No. 1 Eagles fan” Brad Tarman remembers the days the stands weren’t in such bad shape. He’s been a spectator there since 1952, and a player on the field from ‘54-‘56. He remembers “a lot of good games and a lot of bad games” seen from his seat at Davis Field but wasn’t nostalgic Friday.
The last game was “kind of sad, but we do need new stands,” he said. “It served its time.”
Tarman noted the current stands were built by volunteer labor, and worried about funding a new home.
“We’ve never passed a bond to build one before,” he said.
It’s not for lack of trying — the district put the issue before voters in 2010 and 2011 and it was rejected both times.
An engineer hired by the district estimated keeping the stands up for another year would cost between $100,000 and $150,000. The district has spent between $3,000 and $12,000 every year in maintenance.
Elma transplant Clarissa Miller is looking forward to the opportunities new grandstands will bring.
“We’re excited to see the changes and the improvements. Hopefully they’ll bring something forward we’ll be able to offer up for the fast pitch teams and possibly rent out to the community,” she said.
New construction offers the chance to nearly double the seating for the often overflowing stands. Davis Field seats about 800, and the limit for hosting Washington Interscholastic Activities Association state playoff games is 1,500.
The district is still in the process of deciding what will replace the aged stands. The two choices so far are the current location, which has been plagued by flooding, and a parcel west of Elma Elementary School on higher ground.
“They need to be gone, I just don’t think it should be there,” Elma alum and parent volunteer Gloria Davis said of the alternate location.
“It’s just going to be tough because my son’s going to be a senior and things probably aren’t going to be resolved by next year,” she added.