Ceremony will open new athletic field Friday night

Months after work began to replace the Vashon High School athletic field and track, the project is slated to come to an end.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday before the Pirates play their first home game of the football season on the new synthetic turf. Opening remarks will be given by school board chair Zabette Macomber, project manager Randy Fox and longtime VHS track and field coach Russ Brazill. Islanders who would like to walk on the new turf and track are invited to put on athletic shoes and come by as early as 5 p.m.

“I think this really honors our community,” said Michael Soltman, former superintendent of the Vashon Island School District. “It’s been a long-standing desire on the part of the athletic community, but also I think the community at large.”

The school district’s capital facilities bond, which made the project possible, passed last May with more than 73 percent of the vote.

Upgraded to a synthetic turf designed by engineer Dave Anderson of Seattle’s D.A. Hogan & Associates, the former grass field was not suitable for regular use and suffered from chronic drainage issues. It was prone to degradation in inclement weather, and the field’s sensitivity rendered it unavailable for team practices. Likewise, the old cinder track was uneven and posed safety issues for athletes, especially when it became muddy during rainy periods. The new track surface is an all-weather, regulation-compliant rubberized material that will allow the district to host meets on the island for the first time in 10 years, according to athletic director Andy Sears.

“It’s a gift, not only to student athletes but also to our community, and it will be used a lot, which we’re excited about. We want people to use it for sure,” Sears said.

Brazill became a track and field coach at the high school in 1969 and said he remembers when the old track was installed that same year. He has previously recounted its problems present from the beginning, including being too narrow for eight lanes and water pooling in some of the lanes, making them unusable.

“You can’t believe the hours the coaching staff and the students put into that track to get it into shape and to host meets on it,” he said.

Although he has been retired now for several years, he is clearly still a fan of the sport he coached for so long.

“Track really does serve a lot of kids with different abilities and different body types. There’s something there for everybody,” he said.

Board Chair Macomber said that she is grateful for Soltman’s advocacy as well as the work of previous school board members who supported improvements to the athletic field and track in the past. She noted that an annual contingency of $35,000 has been funded for several years in anticipation of maintenance costs.

Meanwhile, a flagpole once situated outside the K2 building — a gift to the ski manufacturer from the 1984 Olympic Committee — will soon be raised outside the new athletic field. The pole honors the victories of twin brothers Phil and Steve Mahre, who competed against one another on K2 skis to win gold and silver medals respectively in their Olympic event. The flagpole was recently donated to the school district by the partners of Sound Properties, LLC, which now owns the vacant building.

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