SANDPOINT — It's the first home football game of the season for the Sandpoint High School Bulldogs.
As the sun sets behind the new grandstands, 1,500 fans crowd into the seats. From the top of the grandstands, members of the press ready their cameras as they look over the field in its entirety, with the river, trees and mountains in the view as well.
The Bulldogs are on the lower level of the grandstands, underneath the fans as they prepare for the game in the new locker rooms. They emerge as the crowd cheers them on. The visiting team emerges from an identical locker room on the opposite side of the grandstands.
As the teams prepare for kickoff, more fans stream in, following the new pedestrian path along the north side of the field, to the ticket booth near the grand entryway before entering between the 20-foot tall brick pillars and 9-foot gates. Across the three pillars, a sign lets them know they have arrived at War Memorial Field — Barlow Stadium.
After entering, a few of the fans stop to sit on the donor seating walls and read a few of the names listed on them.
And the kickoff. The crowd cheers and the game is underway.
This could be the scene as the first football game commences this fall, but no matter what the scenario, it will be a different experience than in previous years. The grandstands and all the amenities that go with it, the entryway, the ticket booth, the seat walls and pedestrian path are all new improvements.
The home and visitor locker rooms in the 10,800-square-foot facility are 1,170 square feet each, said Tom Trutter with Northcon, Inc. Each locker room is lined with 70 lockers in red and black, as well as restrooms and 15 showers. Also underneath the grandstands, the referees have their own locker room with five lockers, a shower and restroom.
"We didn't have a dedicated space for referees before," said Kim Woodruff, city Parks and Recreation director.
The other mysterious doors lining the wall along the back of the grandstands lead to men and women's public restrooms and a shop area for use by Parks and Recreation staff.
The Friends of Memorial Field donated the seating walls through a fundraising effort where community members donated $250 to "buy a brick." Those individuals are whose names are listed on the seating walls. The Friends also donated a new scoreboard, which will be in Bulldog colors, and should arrive in the next few weeks Stapleton said.
The Festival at Sandpoint festivities begin today and construction of the locker room level will continue over the next few weeks, said City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton, but the seating area and entryway are ready for the event.
Stapleton said the locker room level would not be required for the Festival anyway, but it is expected to be completed in time for the first non-Festival event — Meet the Bulldogs on Aug. 21. Prior to that, a public grand opening is "tentatively" on the schedule for Aug. 20, Stapleton said. The time of the grand opening is to be announced.
As the construction wraps up, Memorial Field improvements will continue next year with new turf. The question of whether that turf will be natural, artificial, or a combination of both has yet to be answered, but the discussion will continue in the fall, Stapleton said.
Because of issues with the existing turf, such as drainage, city staff are working with the school district to determine when the first game will be held on the field.
"We need some time to recuperate the field after the Festival," Woodruff said.
The city's Memorial Field project was budgeted in at about $4.5 million and is supported by a five-year, voter-approved 1-percent local option tax. Northcon, Inc., a North Idaho company owned by Randy and Renay Smith of Athol, is the company contracted by the city for the grandstand and entryway construction.
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