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Sunnyside School District looks at upgrading outdoor athletic facilities

The Sunnyside School District received nothing but encouragement Monday night, when parents, staff members and coaches were asked whether or not the district should continue to move forward with a $4 million plan that would upgrade the outdoor athletic facilities at Sunnyside High School and Harrison Middle School.

Sunnyside School Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole estimated that the wooden bleachers at Clem Senn stadium have been in place for more than 35 years. Cole said the estimated cost to repair just the seating at the stadium is $1 million.

"Our bleacher facilities need to repaired to get them up to insurance code, safety code and make sure they are safe," Cole said.

But instead of just working to repair the existing bleachers, Cole said the Sunnyside School District, with the help of an eight-member planning committee, decided to look at updating all of the outdoor facilities located on the grounds behind Sunnyside High School, Harrison Middle School and Chief Kamiakin Elementary School.

Cole said the plan is simply an extension of a renovation project that started in 1990 with the construction of the 10-lane track. According to Cole, in 1990 the construction of the track was considered phase one of a project that was going to include building a new football stadium. The new football stadium was something that never came to fruition.

But Cole is hoping if things continue to go well that a new stadium will soon be in Sunnyside's future.

"We're not starting over...we're trying to go forward," Cole said. "We could make this a real central facility."

Cole said not only will reworking the stadium benefit athletics at both Sunnyside High School and Harrison Middle School, but it will also make for a nicer place to hold graduation.

"It just doesn't work the way we've got it," Cole said. "People can't hear, they can't see."

He added that the district is trying to make the stadium, the school grounds and all of the other sports facilities not just school facilities, but community facilities. He said updating the district's outdoor facilities will mean that events ranging from a Sunnyside Relay for Life to outdoor concerts could be held on the new grounds.

Dick Loofburrow with Loofburrow Architects of Yakima explained that the facilities plan being looked at revolves around where the current track is located. He said as that the track is valued at $800,000, which is a big asset, the district didn't want to move it.

Instead, the plan is for a stadium facility to be built around the track. Loofburrow said 5,000 seats will be placed outside the track, with 4,000 seats for home spectators and 1,000 seats for visitors. He added that inside the track, the field will be covered with synthetic field turf. According to Loofburrow, field turf is currently being used at the University of Washington and Washington State University, and has an estimated life expectancy of 10 to 15 years.

Loofburrow said 110 additional parking spaces would then be placed in the area where the current stadium is located. The additional parking would be needed to accommodate the 5,000 seats that will be placed at the new stadium.

The second phase of the facilities upgrade will include reconfiguring the existing baseball field. The reconfiguration would mean home base would face east, which Loofburrow said is the proper orientation for a baseball field.

Moving the football stadium out to the track and reconfiguring the baseball field not only will improve the district's athletic fields, but it will also provide more space for health and fitness classes at both Sunnyside High School and Harrison Middle School. This is because moving the existing facilities creates more green space right behind the high school, where Clem Senn field currently stands. That property could then be used for P.E. classes.

Loofburrow added that in the future the new field behind the high school could be used to add onto the school.

The third phase of the facilities plan would be refurbishing the remaining athletic facilities located behind the high school and middle school. Cole said the softball fields will stay behind Lincoln Elementary School, but will be lighted like the baseball and football fields.

As for funding the project, Cole said there are several options on the table. He said the district could run a $4 million facilities bond at 31ยข per $1,000 of assessed value with a 20-year payback. The district could also pass a non-voted bond debt of $4 million with a 10-year payback at $400,000 a year, or secure a revenue anticipation note for $4 million with a 10-year payback at $400,000 a year.

Cole said the focus of Monday night's meeting was to get community input on the facilities plan and see if it is something with which people would like to see the school district go forward. He added that a decision on how to fund the project is something that will come at a later date.

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