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Regional events center takes giant leap forward

POULSBO — The dark cloud hanging over the future of the North Kitsap Regional Events Center was washed away by a sudden ray of sunshine Friday morning.

Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen along with North Kitsap School District, City of Poulsbo and Kitsap Public Facilities District leaders met in an attempt to move the project ahead after it had been bogged down by a user agreement issue.

KPFD chairwoman and Poulsbo representative Linda Berry-Maraist called the meeting to discuss the future of the project in order to ensure at least a part of the project is completed this summer.

“We are trying to get to a user agreement we feel is acceptable,” Berry-Maraist said. “If we are going to turf the stadium, we need to have public access to it.”

When the regional events center idea was floated to the county, city and school district, the No. 1 priority was installing artificial turf at North Kitsap High School Stadium, but because of the delays with the user agreement, the PFD had considered improvements to nearby Strawberry Field instead, she said.

As if on cue, North Kitsap High School athletic director Trish Olson distributed a tentative schedule for August 2007 to August 2008 outlining the dates and times the school district needs the stadium, dates and times the public is guaranteed access to it and dates and times that are open to negotiation.

“We are going to make every effort to keep Wednesdays open from 5-9 p.m.,” Olson said.

Since both Kingston and North Kitsap high schools will have three football teams, Wednesday is the only day during the week, the district can guarantee public access, Olson said.

The proposed agreement works out to a 40/60 split between the public and district, NKSD Superintendent Gene Medina said.

“It’s closer to 50/50, but it’s 40/60 with some flex,” Medina said.

The dates and times that are open to negotiation will be decided by a scheduling committee, which includes members from the district, the city, the PFD and user groups, he said. The committee will meet twice a year, but during the first year it might meet three times.

“The only time we would have priority on those times is when it is something we have to get done,” he said. “Beyond that we’re just like everybody else.”

An example of the district having priority would be when a league game can’t be scheduled at another time or played in another venue, he said.

“I think everyone is totally willing to work around the school district’s schedule,” Berry-Maraist said.

After listening to the discussion Poulsbo City Councilman Ed Stern said the thing that helped sell the city on the project was the turfing of the high school stadium, which should be the No. 1 priority.

“The city has pretty much committed to the second $150,000 in 2008,” Stern said. “If it would make a difference, I’d be willing to go to council and asking to come with the $150,000 this year if it we can stay on the high school stadium.”

Fellow Councilman Dale Rudolph said now that the city has enough information about the project, he, too, is willing to consider Stern’s proposal.

“I’m not going to say, ‘yes,’ but I would be cautiously optimistic,” Rudolph said.

With the user agreement issues apparently resolved, it is still possible that the high school stadium turf could be installed this summer, Berry-Maraist said.

The school district is having a pre-application meeting with the city for the required permits on May 1, but until the financial agreement is approved by all the groups involved, it won’t go out for bid, said NKSD capital programs director Robin Shoemaker said.

“We’re hoping to go out for bid in mid-May,” Shoemaker said.

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