Seating a worry at Davis Field

ELMA — A plan to play Elma High School home football games at Davis Field next fall without portable seating may be revisited by the Elma School Board.

In the wake of last month’s demolition of the Davis Field grandstand, the board appointed a committee at Wednesday night’s work study meeting to discuss scheduling for the 2014 season. The committee’s recommendation is scheduled to be presented at the next school board meeting.

One possibility is shifting Elma home football games to another location, such as Aberdeen’s Stewart Field.

The board had voted last spring, despite the pending demolition of the 70-year-old stadium grandstand due to safety concerns, to continue scheduling home football and soccer games at Davis Field. That was based on a report compiled by district administrators that indicated a preference by the football and soccer coaching staff for home games at Elma, despite the absence of permanent seating.

“Our decision was based on the report we got,” board chairman Carl Jonsson said.

But Elma head football coach Jim Hill voiced objection to that decision at Wednesday’s meeting, saying his previous sentiment was based on the assumption there would be portable bleachers installed for spectators.

“If we’re not bringing in portable seating, why are we having home games?” he said.

The school district’s set of six portable bleachers, which would have accommodated some 300 spectators, recently were ruled out of compliance with state safety guidelines — although district transportation and maintenance supervisor Tom Boling said he believed they could have been retrofitted at minimal cost to meet those standards.

Renting a more extensive set of portable bleachers would be prohibitively expensive, Boling said.

“There is no money to put in stands,” school board member Larry Bridenback said.

Davis Field, prior to the grandstand demolition, seated slightly more than 800 spectators.

Without temporary bleachers, spectators would either be forced to stand or provide their own seating for Elma home football and soccer games — a possibility that Superintendent Howard King broached on several occasions while discussing the issue last spring.

King, who is on vacation, was absent from Wednesday’s meeting.

In addition to being exposed to the elements, spectators would have had their view cut off by players and coaches standing on the sidelines and a significant crown in the middle of the field, Hill pointed out.

“To play a football game at that field and to have people sit in lawn chairs is absurd,” the Eagle coach asserted. “We can’t host a high school football game (under those conditions). It’s not appropriate.”

If home games are shifted from Davis Field, Aberdeen’s Stewart Field could serve as at least a temporary home for Elma’s football team. The Aberdeen stadium, with its artificial turf field, hosted Montesano football games the past two seasons while Rottle Field’s grandstand — destroyed by fire in September of 2012 — was being rebuilt.

Rottle Field, which hosted Bulldog boys soccer games last spring, will be available for football next fall.

“If there’s no seating (at Elma), I would travel to every single game,” Hill said. “I wanted to have some home games, but we’ve got to have seating.”

Hill, Bridenback, newly hired athletic director Paul Gaskins and community members Aaron Hurd and Tom Huttula agreed to serve on the committee that will offer a recommendation to the board.

“Nothing is set in stone,” Jonsson emphasized.

A long-term solution to football and soccer scheduling may be difficult to reach.

Voters have rejected three bond issues — the last submitted earlier this year — for the construction of a new stadium.

Hill suggested that the board and district administrators seek out opponents of the previous bond proposal to find an acceptable compromise.

“If you don’t listen to them, you’re not going to get the votes,” he said.


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