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UPDATE: City, district continue to haggle over field costs

The scoreboard is up. The grandstands are painted. The turf is down, but the debate between the city of Enumclaw and the Enumclaw School District over who will control the Enumclaw stadium, traditionally known as Pete’s Pool, continues.

Most recently, the city of Enumclaw’s Park Board recommended an interim agreement and movement to a long-term lease. The City Council met Monday night; any discussion or action taken came too late to be reported here.

A ribbon-cutting celebration is planned for Friday. The Enumclaw High football team plans to play its season-opener at the field Sept. 2. The Hornets’ girls soccer team also is making plans to use the field.

“We want these weeks before the opening of the field to be ones of excitement,” Superintendent Mike Nelson said at the Aug. 15 meeting. “We find this disheartening.”

The transformation from a boggy, grass field to a state-of-the-art artificial surface on the historic stadium is nearly complete. It was renovated with a $200,000 Seahawk grant, a state RCO grant, $10,000 donations from Mutual of Enumclaw and the Kovacevich Foundation, several personal donations and the construction efforts of Carl Sanders.

The city and school district came to odds over the field during an Aug. 8 city council meeting that spilled over into a council study session Aug. 15.

“I’m at a loss to why we can’t get this done,” Councilman Sean Krebs said at the Aug. 15 meeting.

The two sides have been working on a 25-year lease with the school district controlling the facility since May, but a memo from City Attorney Mike Reynolds said the lease agreement was not in the best interest of Enumclaw citizens or the Enumclaw Expo Center, which is home to the football field.

Reynolds said a user agreement is less problematic than a lease agreement.

The city and the school district have a similar situation at the Boise Creek Sixplex. The baseball and softball fields are owned by the school district but maintained and run by the city. The two entities are about 20 years into a 35-year lease. Those fields also were built through a community fundraising effort that included a Seattle Mariners grant and money from King County.

For decades, the high school has used Pete’s Pool for its home football games. Last year, the school district paid no user fee at Pete’s Pool, but performed maintenance. In the past, the grass field was used by youth and college teams; the new surface will also be able to handle soccer and lacrosse.

After the Aug. 15 meeting, the council was also thinking a user-agreement was the way to go, but suggested continuing to look into a long-term agreement.

Thursday, the Park Board recommended the school district have any fees associated with using the stadium waived for 30 days, giving the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board time to compare neighboring districts’ fees and come up with user fees for Pete’s Pool.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board also recommended city administration and the school district immediately engage in completing a long-term lease agreement that mitigates the field replacement cost risk to the citizens of Enumclaw.

One of the biggest sticking points is who will pay the $500,000 or more to replace the turf in 10 years.

The school district said with a lease agreement it would bear that responsibility.

Neighboring Sunset Chev Stadium at Sumner High School is about due for turf replacement and Athletic Director Tim Thomsen said it won’t be an issue, even in these tough economic times.

Like White River, Sumner rents its stadiums; the district also has a turf field at Bonney Lake High, for $28 an hour, $45 an hour with lights. Porta-potties are always available, but additional fees come in to play for restrooms, public address systems, scoreboards and other items.

“We keep it at a reasonable rate for our taxpayers,” Thomsen said. “We want youth programs for our community.”

Sumner also charges more, $77 an hour for example, for non-youth entities that use its fields like semiprofessional football.

But 90 percent of the programs that use the Sumner fields, Thomsen said, are youth programs. The school programs use the fields for free and have priority.

“Our belief is the fields are for the local folks,” he said. “These are our taxpayers. They helped pay for it, so for our local programs we just cover maintenance.”

Thomsen said between the nominal fees and the money they save on not having to maintain a grass field, the district is able to bank enough to cover the cost of replacement turf.

“It’s a great community resource that doesn’t really cost any money,” Thomsen said.

The Sumner School District also picked up a sponsor, Sunset Chev, which is donating $500,000 during a 14-year period for renovations. Some of that money has been set aside for turf replacement. Sunset Chev’s turf is approaching 10 years and holding up well even under the thousands of uses Thomsen said it gets a year.

“It’s been a blessing here for us,” he said.

The artificial turf allows the field to be used year round. He said it’s most busy in the winter during the youth soccer championship season. Thomsen said it’s open 24/7, community youth play glow-in-the-dark Frisbee on the field at night and community members use it to run or train at all hours, all free of charge. He said all that use keeps vandals away.

“It’s a great investment in the long term,” he said.

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