It was long, lush and green, moist from the recent rain, with rich, dark soil leaving a trail.
The kind of grass any Enumclaw homeowner would envy, but as Rick and Willis Bathum lugged their chunk of Pete’s Pool turf home with them it represented more.
In that piece of sod were at least two generations of memories spent with the Enumclaw High football program and at the same time a tribute to the future as the field will soon be replaced with an synthetic surface.
A member of the Your Enumclaw Area Stadium, the group who worked hard the past three years to make the renovation a reality, Bathum referred to the replacement as “changing attitudes and a way of thinking.”
His speech, one of many during the ground-breaking ceremony June 29, hinted about the love-hate relationship there has been with the historic field through the years.
Bathum and the 200 folks in attendance each had their own memories. There were stories about the “hump” in the field that makes receivers disappear from a quarterback’s line of vision and the cheer squads’ efforts to dodge sideline ponds as they encouraged Hornet fans.
“Gone are the visiting teams excuse for losing,” Bathum said.
Former Mayor John Wise, President of the YEAS Committee, city of Enumclaw Mayor Liz Reynolds and Enumclaw School District Superintendent Mike Nelson all spoke to the community effort that gained momentum to renovate the tired, but cherished, field that sits in Mount Rainier’s shadow behind the historic field house built on immigrant Pete Chorak’s land.
They quoted coaching great Vince Lombardi, local football legend Pacific Lutheran University coach Frosty Westering and Olympic women’s soccer gold medalist Mia Hamm.
The field, originally created with horse-drawn teams, gave out this fall. Used by junior, high school teams and Green River Community College teams, during a rash of rainy weather the field couldn’t take any more play. For the first time in 91 years EHS played two of its home games out of town.
Local construction leaders and a design team, led by Carl Sanders, stepped forward to join the effort. Sanders, who plans to begin the work in early July with a completion date before Sept. 2, was given the honorary first dig, swiping a swath of turf into the bucket of his backhoe.
There were kudos to all those who donated time and money during these tough economic times.
Thanks were given to those who scored the $200,000 NFL grant through the Seahawks and King County for giving $75,000. Mutual of Enumclaw, which gave $50,000. The $10,000 donations from the Muckleshoot Tribe, Kovacevich Foundation, Gamblin Motors and Fugate Ford. The donations from Sanders Construction, Wheeler Construction, Corliss, AA Asphalt and Lakeside Asphalt and the countless others who gave their time and money.
And, the $300,000 grant through the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Coalition, which brought out former Gov. Mike Lowry, who chairs the group, for a few words.
Lowry said the projects are chosen by merit and ranked.
“You came in No. 1 in your category,” he told the crowd. “It’s for building strong communities, and that’s what you are.”
The renovated field will be available for football, but also soccer and lacrosse. The scoreboard will be replaced by a 28-foot updated version. There are also plans for Phase 2, which will include a 2,000-seat grandstand on the west side of the field with locker rooms, concession stands.
The final scene played like a football Friday night. The weather was cool and misty, the band played the Hornet fight song, the crowd cheered, the dignitaries took the field, shovels in hand, and Nelson sent them off with a quote from Hamm: “I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.”