Reactions to stadium fire reflect history lost

People all over Montesano were reeling Monday after fire destroyed the stands at Jack Rottle Field. Some lamented the loss of a piece of community history, others worried about the logistics of sports, and some looked ahead to the opportunities of rebuilding.

Josh Bachtell, co-owner of the Savory Faire restaurant on Main Street and a Bulldog Booster for Montesano High School, said the loss was devastating in a town that values its history and community as much as Montesano.

“It was just the last piece of history of the old school that’s just gone now,” he said. Bachtell was in the last class to graduate from the old high school, and remembers fondly playing for the Bulldogs band, on the football team, and for the cross country team. Now, he worries, the stadium will go the way of the high school itself.

“They’ll never be able to rebuild something that beautiful,” he recalls worrying when the old school building was torn down.

Sarah Sigler, Montesano High class of ‘91, said her son had been looking forward to playing in his first football game at the field as a junior high student. That game was to be played tonight.

Cheryl Brown said the fire could be an opportunity to re-create the stadium as something that fits Montesano’s needs today. The crowds have been a bit cramped in the stadium lately, she said.

“I say hip, hip hooray, get something new,” Brown said.

“No, I love the old stadium,” Sigler retorted. She remembered hearing stories from her dad — an Elma High grad — about pranks between the two schools on that field.

Brown has a somewhat broader perspective on the the loss of school history.

“I went to Aberdeen, my school burned down,” she said with a shrug.

State Rep. Brian Blake, an Aberdeen High grad, was in Montesano Monday morning and lamented the loss.

“I’m heartbroken. I’ve spent a lot of time at that stadium,” Blake said.

“And you can’t replace the character of those old wooden stadiums. I’m confident the people of Montesano will rise to the occasion and rebuild.”

As firefighters brought the flames under control, a crowd of spectators gathered Sunday night across the street from the stadium, most of them high school students.

“I’ve never seen fire like that before,” said Adam Torres, a 16-year-old student at the school. “I’ve never seen flames like that before.”

Like most people watching the fire, Torres said he heard about it first on Facebook.

Laura Benjaminson, a 14-year-old student at Montesano, said she was shocked by the fire.

“It’s horrible for the senior class, it’s their last year,” she said adding. “Where are they going to play?”

Montesano School Board President Jack Dwyer thanked the Montesano Fire Department “for their real heroic efforts to contain the fire and the gymnasium. We could have lost both and our district offices.

“They did a great job. The tradition of the Montesano Football Stadium is a long and storied tradition. Obviously, we will rebuild the stadium.”

Daily World reporter Will Morris contributed to this story.