Elma tables approval of covered stands donation to work out legal language

Elma superintendent positive on project’s future, credits community for its input

The Elma School District decided to table the approval of the donation of the covered stands at a school board meeting on Wednesday, June 12 in Elma.

The school board decided not to vote on the matter yet keep it as an agenda item to be considered once some of the legal language of the agreement between the non-profit A Chance to Play Foundation and the district is confirmed.

The proposed $4.5 million project by the Elma-based non-profit to construct a 1,300-seat covered grandstand and ADA-compliant concrete pathways has cleared many hurdles during the pre-construction phase of the process, and according to Elma School District Superintendent Christopher Nesmith, the recent no vote on the donation approval is more of a formality than a setback.

“We’re working on the language on cleaning up the transition from when it goes from the builder to the school district. So it’s just clearing up language on how much money we keep on retainer if the football field got tore up and we needed to re-seed the football field, and how much money should the board have in reservation to cover those costs,” Nesmith said. “We’re just hammering out the language.”

Nesmith confirmed the district is on board with the project and is glad to see it moving forward.

“We’re in agreement on how to make the donation work,” said Nesmith, who added part of the legal language includes input from civil engineers. “Kind of where we are moving with the engineering drawings is do we have topographical maps that show if we are in a flood plain? What is the impact when we build it? It’s not a plumbed building and being in a flood plain that shouldn’t be an issue, but it does require extra permitting and all of that. If you want to get into the minutiae, those are the things we are going back and forth on is making sure we have engineering drawings because of the location.”

Nesmith said while the project is expected to break ground on construction beginning this summer, his role in the process is nearly done.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’re 99.999% of the way done because my scope of the work and (the foundation/contractor’s) scope of the work is so different,” he said, adding his work was focused on getting feedback from Elma residents. “My scope of the work has been working with the Elma community to clearly define what it wants in regards to the loss of the covered stands in 2014.”

Nesmith said that work began shortly after taking the position three years ago in the model of in-person community forums, mostly to discuss the stadium issues and learn what the community envisioned for Davis Field after multiple bond proposals over the past decade failed to obtain the required votes to pass.

“So we ran a bond (in 2023) and we know this covered stand project is really standing in the way of our community doing something to offset our overcrowding issue. … Part of that $66 million dollar (bond) included $15 million to redo our athletic facilities. … The community came in and asked ‘Why is (the stadium project) $15 million dollars?’ Nesmith said. “Well, the current stands sit in a flood plain. When a turf field is a part of the project we either have to raise the enter Davis Field up or need to move the entire facility to the elementary school. Regardless, both of those projects are tacking on about $10 million to the project, just to have turf.”

Nesmith said discussing the failures of previous bond measures helped to create an understanding between the community and the school district.

“In June 2023, the Elma community came back and said, ‘Just eliminate turf.’ We eliminated turf and now we are within range of this project,” he said. “So that’s kind of what made it in the range for (A Chance to Play Foundation founders Ken Brogan and Delaney Holcomb) to come in.”

According to Nesmith, having support and clarity from the community was key to the project’s birth.

“The community really had to come together and say, ‘This is what we want,’ because if the community didn’t to that, I don’t think we could’ve reached this solution,” he said. “So really having our community come down and say we just want covered stands to sit. We don’t need turf. We’re fine with our grass field. I think it’s a really powerful movement.”

With construction estimated to be completed in approximately 10 months once the project is underway, Elma High School officials have been working on finding suitable alternatives for its football and girls soccer teams’ home games in the fall, with the obvious candidates being facilities in Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Montesano.

According to Nesmith, Elma Athletic Director Ron Clark has been working with other athletic directors to create a schedule that will work for all teams and schools involved.

“The neighboring districts have been very supportive in hosting us, so we haven’t had a big pushback,” Nesmith said. “Our biggest barrier is trying to make sure our home schedules are not in the way of a neighboring district’s home schedules. One facility isn’t going to be the solution, we might need to look at a couple.”

Nesmith gave much of the credit for the project to those that brought the idea to the table and the community as a whole.

“We have so much gratitude and appreciation for the Brogan family, but also the entirety of our community,” he said. “People really are getting excited about this.”