SANDPOINT — Although cold weather has stalled the War Memorial Field grandstand project for a couple weeks, the improvements are underway and schedule for completion in June.
The entryway to Memorial Field will begin in the spring, with a design that includes three 20-foot-tall pillars surrounding the two 9-foot-tall gates. The pillars, while in the rendering look as if they are in a straight line with each other, are actually designed in a semi-circle to give it depth. A sign near the top of the pillars will announce to visitors that they have arrived a War Memorial Field — Barlow Stadium.
Some concern was raised by community members over a previous design for the entryway, which included brick walls on either side of the gates, said Jennifer Stapleton, city administrator. In contrast to the cyclone fencing that currently surrounds the field, this greatly reduced visibility. In the final rendering, the brick walls were replaced with a more transparent fencing to increase visibility. Another early rendering had large banners to either side of the entryway as well, and although they were made of a translucent mesh material, people in the neighborhood objected to how large the banners were so they were removed as well.
Kim Woodruff, city parks and recreation director, said that overall the community has been pleased with the Memorial Field project.
"People have been very excited about the project and are looking forward to the improvements," Woodruff said.
Stapleton said community members contributed $250 in the Friends of Memorial Field fundraising campaign to “buy a brick.” These bricks were originally incorporated into brick fencing on either side of the gateway. When most of the brick was removed in the final design, the donor bricks were incorporated into a new concept of a brick seating wall which will be inside the entrance on either side. The two seating walls will be about 21-feet long, 20-inches tall, and will host 120 names each.
Before coming to the final design and before it went before City Council in May, Stapleton said an open house was held at Memorial Field last spring where the design team was on-site with the drawings and samples of materials. The different renderings were blown up and placed on display for the open house and were also on display at City Hall at that time.
One concern Stapleton said some neighbors still have is the gates and the question of why the gates are being placed there in the first place.
Woodruff said the plan is to leave the gates locked in the open position, but included a recent change in the design so the gates could be removed if, after a period of time, they decide the gates are not needed or are obtrusive the gates could be removed.
"This is a design that we want to have give us the best options for the next 70 years," Woodruff said.
Stapleton said it is a sporting facility, but adding in the Festival at Sandpoint and other events, it has become a multi-purpose facility.
"Given the location, the view of the water, your open green space, the proximity to the park, there really is a lot of different uses for this facility," Stapleton said. "So we've been trying to come up with something that accommodates both what are the existing uses, and what are the potential uses in the future."
Much of the discussion with the designers, Stapleton said, surrounded the height of the entryway in proportion to the height of the new grandstands. The new grandstands will hold approximately 1,500 people, a 67-percent increase from the old wooden bleachers that were torn down in September. With the grandstands being much larger than the bleachers, the designer did not want the entryway to be too short in comparison.
The next decision in the Memorial Field project will involve a community outreach in February and March in regards to the turf. The mayor appointed a steering committee to consider turf options, which artificial turf could be considered. The committee is comprised of community members from the neighborhood, Festival representative, athletics representatives and other stakeholders.
Woodruff said the issue with the existing turf is it doesn't drain.
"It's native material and because of the inability to drain, it's not able to establish a vibrant play turf," Woodruff said. "After the Festival, for example, we have a week or two to get it in shape for football season and it looks kind of OK and it holds up OK until you get your first rainstorm."
Stapleton said sporting events also tend to see a higher level of injuries because of the shape the existing turf is in. Representatives from the medical community are also serving on the steering committee to help address player and participant safety for sporting events.
The entire 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.
Overall, the Memorial Field project is on schedule and on budget. Stapleton said city officials are feeling confident with the revenues coming in. The city has not received local option tax revenue for December yet, but she said the revenue that came in through November is above projections at about $1.1 million.
"Also, we are still hopeful that that there will be some leftover funds to go toward, as the voters approve this, toward some infrastructure improvements at some of our other parks," Stapleton said.