HERMISTON — The Hermiston School District’s Kennison Field Renovation Committee agreed Monday on tentative schematic designs for the new multi-purpose sports facility at the high school. The designs will go before the school board next Monday for approval, making way for the project to break ground late this fall.

Interim superintendent Wade Smith said the plans — which are not yet available to the public — could be posted to the district’s website as early as next Tuesday for community feedback.

The bleachers at Kennison Field, the home for Hermiston football and track, were condemned in May after a facility inspection from consultants Fishel C.M. found significant safety hazards. Repairing the existing structure was not an option, according the report.

The district chose to give the entire complex an overhaul, replacing the weathered and cracking track, grass field and lighting system at an estimated cost of more than $3.1 million dollars.

The first of those changes have already occurred. Instead of the creaking old bleachers, replacement metal seats have overlooked Kennison Field this summer while the Bulldog football team runs its preseason drills. The school contracted with the Farm-City Pro Rodeo grounds adjacent to the field’s location, borrowing its bleacher system for the upcoming sports season.

The bleachers were broken down, ferried the short distance and reassembled in the footprints of the condemned structure. The new area for fans is much smaller — Smith guessed between half to two-thirds of the old capacity.

“It’s one of those things that we realized it was going to be a temporary thing, though,”?Smith said. “It’s not going to be ideal for spectators but we think it will fit our needs.”

The current setup will stay throughout the fall football season. On occasion, seating may become scarce for some contests, Smith added, but most games short of the Hermiston-Pendleton matchup on Oct. 26 and potential postseason events should have plenty of capacity.

“There may be times when we will be struggling to find adequate seating,” he added. “People may need to bring lawn chairs with them should the need arise.”

Though the blueprints for construction could be ready in less than a week, Smith said people shouldn’t expect much change before the end of football season. Implanting of a new field won’t happen until December and the installation of a synthetic track should start after the new year.

“I would not be shocked to see equipment out on the field over that Christmas break,” Smith said.

Another group, the Kennison Field Fundraising Committee, grew out of the initial field committee and is still working to find money for the project. Smith said he expects to see significant fundraising campaigns to go along with the unveiling of the facility designs next week, which will help close a current six-figure gap.

While the football team will continue to call Kennison Field its home this season, the spring-time track program will run its practices and home meets at the Armand Larive Middle School complex across town.

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Contact AJ Mazzolini at ajmazzolini@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0839.

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