Mount Baker High School’s football team was unable to host its senior night game Friday, Oct. 21, at Bob Tisdale Field due to unsafe, soggy conditions caused by the lack of maintenance.
And a time frame to fix it seems to be in limbo.
It’s been a long-standing issue, dating back perhaps 30 to 40 years, according to Mount Baker School District Superintendent Charles Burleigh.
A decision was made years ago to make a crowned field by adding soil on top of a flat field.
While this may have seemed like a good idea at the time, over the years the soil has become too saturated to play on at certain times and has caused extensive and costly damage.
The Oct. 21 football game against Lynden Christian was moved to Sedro-Wooley High School. The Mountaineers, who wrap up their regular season Friday, Oct. 28, at Meridian, have clinched the Class 1A Northwest Conference title for a fifth straight year and will host a 1A Northwest District playoff game Nov. 4 or 5 for the right to move on to the state playoffs. Mount Baker last year hosted a similar district playoff game against Bothell Cedar Park Christian at Civic Stadium in Bellingham.
The school district found there were two ways to address the field issue.
The first was the somewhat inexpensive solution of digging a “series of trenches, installing drainage pipes, filling the trenches with draining material and repair the sod.” This was the solution that Burleigh first intended on pursuing when he promised to fix the field. After looking further into the problem with a local engineering firm, the district determined the proposed solution would not be permanent.
The second and more expensive option the district is now considering is to “remove up to 16 inches of soil which has been put over the original field, repair or replace the old drainage system and repair or replace the old sprinkler system.”
Burleigh still intends to fix the field, but the cost of the project has changed the time frame.
However, when asked about a time frame, Burleigh said he would have a better estimate once two of the district’s non-negotiable projects (construction of the new FFA barn and the replacement of the lift station) have been completed.
When asked about the cost of the projects and the money lost from concessions revenue, Burleigh suggested asking Quinn LeSage, the athletic director for Mount Baker School District and assistant principal for MBHS.
But LeSage said he had no idea what the costs would be “until further steps are taken.” He did not elaborate.
Booster Club president Chellie Anderson said the club “will continue to support all of our student-athletes, athletic teams and coaches in any way that we can.” The club also is looking forward to working with the district to find a solution for the field repairs.
Chad Cohn, a 2015 graduate and former lineman for the football team, said he believes that while the field is a problem, the team’s coach, Ron Lepper, wouldn’t want people to get hung up on it, but to focus their attention on the team’s drive for its fifth straight appearance in the Class 1A state quarterfinals.
“It sucks that the seniors don’t get to play their last game on Bob Tisdale, but we’ll get through it and it won’t be a problem,” Cohn said. “As long as they’re playing football, that’s all that matters.”
Burleigh apologized to the community for not communicating as effectively as he could have.
“My apologies for not doing a better job of keeping you in the loop as we have gone through the last several months,” Burleigh said. “It is important that you are included as we move down the road and make these important decisions. It is my responsibility to do so, and I own that. The commitment to the athletic department is there and is important.”