Montesano started on the long road to rebuilding Thursday after the grandstands at Rottle Field were destroyed by fire last weekend.
The charred skeleton of the wooden, 1940s-era grandstands came down Thursday morning and the school board began to address options for reconstruction last night.
Meantime, fire investigators still don’t know the cause and have not determined whether it was accidental or set on purpose.
By Wednesday, fire crews determined the scene was safe enough for insurance investigators to work and the investigation of the remains of the stands was completed by that evening.
“In this case, we were able to get in there and get what we needed in relatively short order,” Montesano Fire Chief Corey Rux said.
Not knowing the cause yet is “a little frustrating,” Montesano Superintendent Dan Winter said.
At least four semi-trailer sized dumpsters full of rubble were hauled away Thursday, Winter said. Crews worked for about five hours tearing down the remains, and nearly all of it was cleared by the end of the day.
The future of the field is still uncertain. The Montesano School Board met Thursday night to discuss options. The damage appears to be limited to the destroyed grandstands, although it’s too soon to tell what damage may have been done to the track surrounding the field where football and soccer games are played. Damage to the adjacent gym was limited to minor water damage and some broken windows, and the board praised the efforts of the firefighters for limiting the damage.
Winter said some community members have been working on fundraising for artificial field turf, and it’s possible there might be more renovation done along with the grandstands.
“I’m sure people are thinking that it would be nice to get both of these done at the same time. … But priority one has to be getting another grandstand built,” Winter said.
The board discussed options, including adding the turf — an estimated cost between $500,000 and $800,000 — according to board chairman Jack Dwyer, any needed repairs to the track, moving the school’s weight room and adding locker rooms and storage to the field. Anything the community wants to do beyond the basic insurance replacement would need to come with its own funding, which could include a bond, although Winter said it’s too early to get into details.
Monte chiropractor Kyna Wilson, who started raising money for the grandstands Monday afternoon, presented the school board with a check for $5,000. Wilson has been selling small banners through her business, Hands-on-Health, for donations, then laminating them and hanging them in strands along the fence near the baseball field. She plans to continue the fundraiser at least through October.
“It’s awesome — it’s Montesano pride, and it’s Grays Harbor pride,” Wilson said.
Winter got choked up talking about the outpouring of support from the Montesano community and all over Grays Harbor since the fire. He said the superintendents of the Elma, Aberdeen and Hoquiam school districts called him by 8 a.m. Monday morning to offer their facilities and state Sen. Jim Hargrove called to offer his help. Home Depot offered staff, the Pasha Group that exports cars from the Port of Grays Harbor offered help, as did numerous community members.
“It’s overwhelming the number of people who have been willing to help, it says a lot about this town,” Winter said. “This is a week that should have been really difficult, but it really wasn’t.”
The district will form a committee to determine what will succeed the old wooden grandstands once more details are available on what options might be available. Whatever it is, it has to be something that’s a good fit for Montesano, Winter said.
“We’re willing to take any input that we can. This was a special place for the community and I personally want to make sure it’s rebuilt in a way that makes the community happy.”
In the short term, the football team plays at Woodland this week. The next Monte High home game, which was supposed to be homecoming, will be played at Stewart Field in Aberdeen. The goal is to have the final home game of the season back at Rottle Field to give seniors one last game on their field, and make that the official homecoming.
“It may mean we’re all standing around the track, but I don’t think that matters,” Winter said.