Sports

Mohler: Buc Field never meant for games

The Kingston Buccaneers football team practices on Buccaneer Field in 2007. The field and surrounding area are only permitted for practices, not games.                                           - File photo
The Kingston Buccaneers football team practices on Buccaneer Field in 2007. The field and surrounding area are only permitted for practices, not games.
— image credit: File photo

KINGSTON — Using Kingston High School’s Buccaneer Field for games was never part of the plan, according to former school board president Melanie Mohler.

The field was never permitted for games, Mohler said, and “We never went for a permit for the field to play games.”

Buc Field was to be used only as a practice field. It was never intended to be a “full-fledged stadium,” she said. A $60 million bond in 2001, of which almost $40 million was used to construct the high school, did not include a sports stadium.

School district administrators are now working to acquire the proper permits that would allow for games at the field; football and soccer games and track events have been held at the field since 2008. Administrators learned the field was not permitted for games when they applied for a permit to build a press box at the field earlier this year. The current permit does not allow construction on the field.

A public hearing was held June 13 prior to the school board meeting for the community to provide input on the issue. The district was required to notify residents living within 400 feet of the school grounds of the hearing, county senior planner Jeff Smith said in a previous interview with the Herald. Smith, of the county Department of Community Development, estimated there are 20-30 residents who live within that perimeter.

Opposition by one resident living within the perimeter could block the district from getting the proper permit.

The field was originally contested by neighbors when Kingston High School was being planned. Though the neighbors lost the fight against a field being developed, the district’s use agreement allows the field to be used only for practice. The conditional use permit allowed the construction of Kingston High School and its athletic fields consistent with the Urban Restricted and Urban Residential designation of the comprehensive plan and zone classifications of Kitsap County. That includes regulations on such things as traffic, lighting, noise, and other impacts near residents.

Of those residents that live near the school, two in the 400-foot perimeter showed up to the meeting.

Susan Arness said she does not find games “objectionable.” It’s appropriate for a high school to host high school sporting events. The band can be just as loud, or louder, than a game — and it’s good music, she said.

Stillwaters Environmental Center co-founder and director Naomi Maasberg, however, is opposed. Both the center and Maasberg’s home are within the 400-foot perimeter of the school. The reason the field was not permitted for games, she said, was because of the findings in the environmental impact statement for the school.

Maasberg would like a more extensive environmental review to be done before a decision is made. It’s not because her home is within the 400-foot perimeter, but because she worries about the impact on the surrounding habitat.

“We are not upset by the noise,” she said. “It’s cheerful. But we can go inside the house and turn on the TV.”

There was a change in habitat following the construction of the school, but there is no solid data available on how sporting events impact habitat, she said.

The final version of the Environmental Impact Statement states, “lighted athletic fields could adversely impact wildlife,” and “the presence of lighted athletic fields could alter nighttime activities of some wildlife species.”

Maasberg is not going to start a “major campaign” over the issue, but wants more consideration for wildlife.

Though the hearing was for neighbors living within 400 feet of the school to address the board with concerns, the majority of speakers supported the field.

One other resident within the perimeter filed concerns directly to the county, Smith said. The resident was “not excited” there was activity outside of the use permit and felt the district should be fined, Smith said. The resident was concerned about impacts regarding noise, stormwater, wildlife and health issues.

Hope Lash, the Kingston High School Athletic Boosters president, said the permitting was an oversight. The school has seen a football team go from no wins to competing in a state tournament since the school opened, she said.

Former district employee Robin Shoemaker, parent of two Kingston graduates, showed her support for the field as well. She is a neighbor and has not seen adverse affects from games being played at the field. She also wants a track paid for by tax money to be used. And it is a comfort for parents knowing their students do not have to travel as much to compete in athletics, she said.

However, Shoemaker said, the original intent was for Buc Field to be used as a practice field.

Kingston coaches showed support for the field as well.

Kingston boys and girls soccer coach Craig Smith said there are more than 30 home soccer games per year, not including postseason. Kingston, about 10 miles away from Poulsbo, has its own community, he said. The Kingston athletes represent more than just themselves.

Head football coach Todd Harder wants no other field on which to play home games.

“We’re proud of our field,” he said. “I hope that the community understands that.”

Karla Manuguid, head coach for cross country and track, appreciated the comments on school pride. Manuguid, also a Kingston Middle School science teacher, said she understands the issues surrounding the impact on the environment. However, she said there would be an increase in costs if Kingston could not host home games.

Speaking at the podium, school board member Scott Henden — a Kingston resident — would like to give the community a complete field, he said.

Former school board member Catherine Ahl was not as concerned with permitting as she was with the district’s plan to build a press box. The press box, if allowed, is expected to cost $30,000. That’s money being spent on something outside of the classroom, amid cuts to programs and jobs in the district.

Kingston sports teams were originally intended to play games at North Kitsap High School’s stadium, one of several closely-located sports fields comprising what the local public facilities district is calling the North Kitsap Regional Events Center. Until lights were installed at Buc Field, KHS teams practiced at North Kitsap Stadium.

The district originally intended to make the stadium a more neutral venue, Mohler said. The Associated Student Body from both schools, along with coaches and staff, were supposed to come to an agreement.

According to district documents in Herald files, the district intended to repaint the stadium and scoreboard and modify the stadium for multiple-team support. The stadium modifications were estimated at $309,152.

Mohler said studies were done when the district went out for the 2001 bond at how other districts dealt with multiple schools sharing one stadium. Most districts with more than one high school have one shared stadium, she said. Central Kitsap’s three high schools, for example, share a stadium.

Mohler understands the Kingston community is enthusiastic for its sports teams. However, Kingston was never intended to “mirror” North Kitsap High School in regard to what was offered. Kingston, for example, never built a pool so its swim teams could have home meets — the Bucs share space with the Vikings at the North Kitsap Community Pool.

Meanwhile, as long as the district is applying for the proper permits, no penalties for non-compliance at KHS’s practice field are going to be given, Smith said in a previous interview. There have been no complaints spurring involvement — and cost — of county code enforcement officers.

The district’s interim director of maintenance, Mike Currie, is working with the county to move forward with the permit process, Superintendent Patty Page said.

If the county does not allow for a change in permit?

“I’m just not even going to go there,” Page said. “At this point, we’re looking at making the application and hoping it gets changed … If not, we’ll need to reassess.”

The county has asked for a description of proposed expansions to the field, Smith said. The county will also look into the frequency of nighttime use of the field, duration of use of field lights, maximum attendance at games, and parking. The county will base its decision on whether the proposed expansions and play can happen based on findings of impact and mitigation, he said.

 

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