Kingston asks NKSD to shed some light on stadium use

NORTH END — The Kingston community wants lights for the school’s artificial turf field. That’s its No. 1 wish, but wishing for something doesn’t account for how it’s going to be funded.

Toss equality of access and fairness into the mix, and the wish/pay formula gets complicated.

Such is the scenario the North Kitsap School District and its board of directors face in regard to the athletic programs at Kingston and North Kitsap high and the programs’ prospective access to the North Kitsap Stadium, and lit practice fields.

During Thursday’s board meeting the school board heard a mouthful from Kingston students, parents and community members, all of whom wish for equal access to the stadium for all NKSD students and lights at Kingston.

“It isn’t about a stadium. It isn’t about football. It’s about all the kids,” said KHS head boys and girls soccer coach Craig Smith. “You have about three times the space to do what we do in Kingston.”

As it stands now Kingston athletics are scheduled to set foot on the stadium field eight times, North athletics are scheduled at least 10 times that.

Kingston doesn’t have lights on any of its practice fields, which means in the fall and early spring practices are cut short, multiple sports have to share the field or move to the fields at Kingston Middle.

The Poulsbo area has several lit practice fields, and the Vikings fields are much enhanced and more roomy than the fields at Kingston.

Five KHS students took the podium and shared with the board what it’s like to be a part of Kingston athletics. Junior cheerleader and Associated Student Body (ASB) member Tonja Kersh told the board the Poulsbo area has seven lit practice fields and Kingston has zero. Senior two-sport athlete and leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Elle Sander asked the board to help pay for lights at KHS so they too can enjoy “Friday night lights.” Senior ASB Senator Taylor Haliday told the board athletes at KHS can’t use their artificial turf field to its full potential because it doesn’t have lights. Senior ASB President Ry Ravenholt appealed to the need for equality and neutrality at the stadium. Senior co-secretary Nick Andersen told the board scheduling was a “nightmare” for Kingston last year, and pointed to the Facilities Use Agreement.

“We were told we could apply for 30 pink slots (open time at the stadium classified as “To Be Determined”) with other groups, but those pink slots go away after November and don’t return until March,” Andersen said.

The Kingston members who spoke at Thursday’s meeting understand the shared, one stadium per district concept. However, shared stadiums generally serve schools within the same community. Kingston is 11 miles from the stadium and one parent pointed out, “that’s not the same community.”

But what the Kingston wish truly boils down to is the need for lights at the high school’s artificial turf field. The teams could practice into the evenings and not have to hold afternoon or Saturday games that were scheduled at the stadium and then moved to Kingston.

Smith said last spring the boys soccer team played five Saturday games, and some of his athletes must work. One boy quit the team as a result.

But lights cost money.

The district’s 2001 bond has about a $1 million dollar reserve. Monies from this reserve can be used to fund some of the district’s capital projects, and lights at Kingston are a consideration among many of the reserve’s funding priorities. This is the money Kingston fans would like to tap to pay for lights.

But it’s not always that easy.

Cami Hattrick, one of three co-chairs for the bond, who’s also on the Capital Facilities Advisory Committee, said at one-time the reserve was $9 million.

Hattrick agrees lights are important, but said to fund lights right now is similar to “spending a Christmas check before receiving it.”

“We really need to compare what we said we’d do with the bond and what has been done to make sure nothing has been left undone. We have projects not done yet,” Hattrick said, adding North wasn’t opened with a pool or a stadium and those things take time to build. “It’s really important we are all one school district, two different communities, but one school district. We need to look at all the different needs.”

The school board has made no decisions, but they are listening.

“When I think back on opening day (KHS) and remember the excitement it just gives you goosebumps,” said President Melanie Mohler. “I don’t want to lose sight of that either.”

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