When the newly built Granite Falls High School opened its doors to students in January of 2008, one of its most prominent features was a new turf football field.
It was a clear upgrade from the field at Hi-Jewel Stadium, located on the other side of the rural mountain community at the site of the old high school. Unfortunately for the Granite Falls athletic programs, the new field lacked two essentials — grandstands and lights.
For nearly a decade, the school’s soccer teams played day games on the field to make up for the lack of lights, and the football had to play its home games at Hi-Jewel. For the football players, the new field was little more than a high-quality practice site.
That finally changed in 2016 after lights were installed, a concession stand was put in place, bathrooms were added and temporary bleachers — enough to seat 500 people — were constructed.
But the field was still was missing something major: A real home-field atmosphere.
In order to complete the grandstands, the school district needed to pass a bond to generate the funds. When the bond first came up — soon after the new school opened — it failed.
The school district then used capital-projects money for the lights, concessions and other amenities to lower the burden on taxpayers and hopefully encourage the community to get the stadium finished, said Linda Hall, superintendent of the Granite Falls School District.
“I think we were pretty prudent in trying to do as much as we possibly could (to lower costs),” Hall said.
Those efforts paid off. The bond passed in February of 2017.
“I guarantee you it’s gonna give more pride to the kids one way or another,” Tigers boys and girls soccer coach Lowell Zenk said. “They’re just gonna think it’s cool to have something there.”
It was also a win for community members who had been wanting to see the stadium finished.
“I know some school board members have been waiting for this day for years,” Granite Falls High School athletic director Joey Johnson said.
The new grandstands will seat about 1,700 people, which is more than double the 832-person capacity at Hi-Jewel. Underneath those stands will be locker rooms, a training room and a team room, which can be used for activities such as watching game film.
“The nice thing is we have the training room a lot closer to the field, which will be a huge benefit for our athletic trainer,” Zenk said. “She’ll be able to have everything a lot closer and quicker, which I think will be a benefit if there are any injuries.”
Unfortunately for the football and girls’ soccer teams, the new grandstands are not expected to be in place by the start of the 2018-19 school year. Manufacturing of the large cement blocks at the base of the stadium has been a problem, which has slowed the construction, project manager Jeff Balentine said.
Balentine said the grandstands likely will be finished by the end of September or early October.
The goal is to make sure everything is in place in time for the school’s homecoming football game Friday, Oct. 19, against South Whidbey.