Kingston residents agree stadium lights are necessary

POULSBO - Members of the Kingston and Poulsbo communities met with North Kitsap School District administrators Monday to discuss the prospect of moving forward with the installation of lights at the Kingston High School field.

Nearly everyone gathered at the school district office agreed that the KHS field needs lights. The discussion focused on which lights to purchase, how to pay for said lights, and how to convince school board members and the public that funding the lighting project is in the best interests of both the Kingston and Poulsbo communities.

"We absolutely, positively, completely and totally need lights at Kingston High School," said Superintendent Rick Jones. "I understand that, the school board understands that. The question is: Where do we get that money? I know the board is really struggling with how to finance the lights."

The cost for lights at the KHS field would most likely fall into the $244,000 to $271,000 range. That estimate includes four 80-foot poles that would provide the same level of illumination available at the district stadium next to NKHS. Jones said he will present a plan to the school board Thursday, at the board's regular meeting, advocating the construction of lights at KHS, and requesting the district front the money for the project while student and community groups, Rotary clubs, businesses and boosters raise funds to pay off the lights in the coming years.

To date, the Kingston Rotary club has raised about $27,000 toward lights through two golf tournaments. Kingston High School athletic boosters have also raised close to $13,000, and the KHS associated student body has pledged $12,000.

Jones' plan was immediately popular with those present at Monday's gathering.

"Let's get going," said Todd Tidball, a Poulsbo businessman with ties to Rotary and a son at NKHS. "Let's get it done. We can raise the money."

Representatives of Poulsbo Rotary, however, admitted that without a concrete plan as to how much lights will cost and what changes will and will not be made to the district stadium, raising money for lights at KHS would be a tough sell.

According to estimates compiled by Dave Dumpert, facilities and maintenance director for the district, the alternative to installing lights would involve renovations to the Poulsbo stadium, including painting over purple and gold with neutral colors, removing the stadium weight room and setting up a second locker room. The total cost for such a project would reach above the $300,000 mark. Such renovations, however, have not been competitively bid yet, so no price is set, said Dumpert.

Since KHS opened in the autumn of 2007, many of the school's sports teams and bands have called the district stadium in Poulsbo their home 10 miles away from home. The Buccaneer teams have struggled to establish an identity within the confines of the purple, Viking-adorned stadium. At a February school board meeting, students from both KHS and NKHS presented the board with two distinct scenarios regarding stadium use and lights at the Kingston field. In the first scenario, lights would be installed at Kingston and most KHS sporting events would take place at the Kingston campus, with a few exceptions. This would require minimal Buccaneer signage at the district stadium. Scenario two, deemed "the least desirable option for both KHS and NKHS," would involve the aforementioned painting and renovating of the stadium so it could be shared equally by both schools, since the KHS field would remain unusable after sunset.

"If we did have lights," said Dumpert, "we would exponentially increase the use of that field."

Dumpert estimated use fees generated by renting the field to outside groups could generate at least $5,000 per year, and possibly as much as $15,000 if semi professional sports teams are brought in.

Jones said Monday that even after lights are installed at the Kingston field, he expected most KHS sporting events to continue to take place at the Poulsbo stadium in the 2009-10 school year, where facilities are more accommodating to large crowds. That plan, however, was not well received by those gathered.

"I've been driving to Poulsbo for 30 years," said one Kingston resident. "I'm done."

Tuesday, Jones sent an email to all of Monday's meeting participants, correcting his statement that all KHS games would be played in Poulsbo.

"It is the expectation that some KHS games will be played at the stadium," wrote Jones, "and they would be determined by the coaches, athletic coordinators, and administration."

The group plans to nail down a funding proposal and meet again at the district offices on April 6, one day before the school board's next meeting.

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