Boosters unhappy with Skyline stadium project

May 7, 2014

By Neil Pierson

New: May 7, 12:14 p.m.

Upgrades to Skyline High School’s stadium could begin late this summer, but the school’s football boosters aren’t happy with the plan being endorsed by Issaquah School District officials.
At the Issaquah School Board’s April 23 meeting, officials addressed the stadium project, which has been talked about since 2006 and received funding in an April 2012 bond measure.
They also got an earful from Skyline Gridiron Club president Pam Thorsen and vice president Jim Merriman, who said district administrators and board members aren’t listening to football boosters’ ideas about the $6.5 million project.
The project was originally slated to start last summer, but the district delayed it for a year in order to receive a site development permit from the city of Sammamish. The permit has not yet been approved, said Steve Crawford, the district’s director of capital projects.
According to the city, the district hasn’t even filed its application for approval, yet.
“The city has been ready to help, but we haven’t received a permit application from Mr. Crawford or anyone else for this project,” said Tim Larson, Sammamish’s communications manager.
The permit is required because of the new grandstand that will be built on the west side of the existing field. The new grandstand will likely be built entirely of steel and aluminum, and will have a post-supported roof, plans the boosters club doesn’t support.
Thorsen said the boosters would rather have a concrete grandstand structure with aluminum bleachers, and a cantilevered roof that removes view-obstructing posts from the spectator areas.
She also said district officials have deviated from a plan agreed upon in November 2012.
At that time, the boosters pushed for the adoption of a design-build proposal to shorten the construction timeline and minimize risks to the school district. They estimated cost savings at around $1 million.
However, the district determined the design-build plan wasn’t feasible and chose to work with Seattle-based Bassetti Architects on a different model that would foster teamwork between the architects, the general contractor and any subcontractors.
Since then, Thorsen claims the design has changed to include 800 square feet of enclosed storage, a fraction of what the boosters believe is needed.
Jake Kuper, the district’s chief of finance and operations, said the plan adopted in late 2012 is “conceptually the same as a year ago,” and that stadium upgrades are expected to meet the $6.5 million budget.
Kuper and Crawford also said the district has an alternate bid contingency, allowing for contractors to bid on a concrete grandstand and a cantilevered roof.
The district can accept the alternate bid if cost estimates are low enough, although Kuper noted “preliminary estimates and historical review of regional stadium projects all point to increased costs for concrete over aluminum grandstands. Concrete is known to be very durable but at a much higher cost.”
Crawford said the district plans to solicit bids early in the summer and accept them in time for an August groundbreaking. Construction is expected to last several months.
“Field activities would continue to be scheduled,” Crawford noted. “Construction is outside of the track area and is not going to impact football or soccer or lacrosse.”
Thorsen said the community’s input is being ignored. It hasn’t helped, she said, that Ryan Gilbert, Skyline’s former athletics director, has left, and principal Lisa Hechtman is departing at the end of the school year. Those two served on the stadium’s planning committee.
Addressing school board president Marnie Maraldo and Superintendent Ron Thiele, Thorsen said they weren’t providing enough leadership on the issue.
“You abdicate your responsibilities to staff. They’re your professionals. I get that,” she said. “When it comes to actually listening to the users so we get what will last and what will work, you turn a deaf ear, and it’s really, really sad.”

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