The artificial turf at Fishback Stadium in Washougal is ripping and peeling apart.
The Washougal School District maintenance staff has done an admirable job of maintaining and repairing the field since it was installed in 2002, but gluing, re-stitching and taping can only do so much after more than a decade of wear and tear. There is a growing foundation of community builders who are determined to save this field for future generations, but they need more bricks.
Since the 2011 school year, Washougal High School Turf Campaign members Rick Thomas, Amanda Klackner, Kyle Eakins and Gordon Torstenbo have asked local businesses and residents for donations to help the school district purchase new synthetic turf for Fishback Stadium. The estimated cost for replacing the turf is $450,000. The district committed to donating $200,000 toward the project, leaving it up to the committee to raise the remaining $250,000 needed.
“This field is like a giant living room for the community,” Thomas said. “I have a lot of friends who depend on this field for their athletic and school functions. I couldn’t just sit back and not try to do something.”
Therefore, the committee developed a “Panther Walk” fundraiser. Individuals and businesses can make a one-time tax-deductible donation and receive a customized brick in honor of their contribution. Each brick costs $100 to $1,000 and includes 3 to 5 lines of customized text. These bricks will be molded together to create a permanent walkway from the ticket booth to the stadium’s seats.
Klackner said several businesses, current and future WHS classes and graduates have added their own personal bricks to the pile. Thomas said there is already $18,000 in the bank and commitments up to an additional $15,000. He hopes to raise a total of $50,000 before the fundraiser ends March 31. Donations can be at www.whsturfcampaign.com.
“Regardless of what amount of money gets raised from this, the Panther Walk should be a great conversation piece,” Klackner said.
“I think it will be very iconic,” Thomas added.
Thomas shared a story about Art Snoey, a 1963 WHS graduate who taught high school for 33 years and coached football, basketball and baseball for 55 years.
“Having spent many hours in the gym and on the ball fields at WHS, I am more than pleased to help with updating the turf,” Snoey said. “I learned many valuable lessons from my coaches at Washougal that I have tried to pass on to my players and students.”
“His statement is really emblematic of what the spirit is in the community of Washougal,” Thomas said. “We’ve got multiple generations here, and their memories are all wrapped up in this field.”
These generations of Panthers have the opportunity to vote for the color of the new playing surface on the WHS Turf Campaign’s Facebook page. Fans can select green turf or “Panther Spirit Turf,” which is black with orange accents. So far, the school’s colors have been the unanimous choice.
“Black and orange, all the way,” Eakins said.
Fishback Stadium is hollowed ground for Eakins. He competed in track and field for Washougal, and graduated from the high school in 1990.
“I spent a lot of time in those stands,” he said. “Not just in track, but for band and football and soccer games.”
The committee has not determined how to raise additional funding. The brick fundraiser has been the only main source of income. But they are not going to stop asking for help. There’s too much Panther pride on the line.
“It’s unthinkable to us that this will not get done,” Eakins said. “We would be failing our kids in a way we can’t wrap our head around.”
“Whoever is in kindergarten now will play on whatever this field resembles in the future,” Klackner added. “It’s a really far reaching project.”