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City Council OKs locking up Islander Stadium

Islander Stadium, pictured above on Jan. 7, boasts a vibrant new turf field, which cost the district $456,000. The field was completed last September.  - Elizabeth Celms/Mercer Island Reporter
Islander Stadium, pictured above on Jan. 7, boasts a vibrant new turf field, which cost the district $456,000. The field was completed last September.
— image credit: Elizabeth Celms/Mercer Island Reporter

By this spring, Islander Sta dium will be secured under lock and key. Now that the City Council has approved its interlocal agreement with the Mercer Island School District for the improvement, scheduling, use and operation of Islander Stadium and other facilities, the ink has been set.

The MISD estimates that by the end of March or April, a new electronic key-card system will be required for public access to Islander Stadium. Any resident can purchase the card for a fee that has yet to be determined, but should be around $5, according to Superintendent Gary Plano.

The restricted access if for security reasons. It enables the district to monitor who is using the track and field, which was replaced in September with new turf surfacing.

“Our stadium is a capital asset worth over $1 million. We want to ensure that it’s preserved for school use primarily and, secondarily, community use,” Plano told the Reporter earlier this year.

Dean Mack, director of business services, said that MISD administration employees would be in charge of issuing and tracking the key cards. A similar security system is already in place at the administration building and other district offices.

Asked how much it would cost to install the card-swiping equipment at Islander Stadium, Mack said this has not yet been determined.

“We’ve got quite a few things to do first, before the system is in place,” he said.

One question brought up during the City Council’s discussion was when residents would have access to Islander Stadium.

According to Mack, the current access rules will not change.

“People won’t be able to go when the facility is rented out for other purposes. If they’re using it to run at 6 a.m., then that’s OK,” he said.

Pressed about Islanders who use the track while various teams are practicing on the field, Mack said that “technically there shouldn’t be people running around the track during practice.” Yet he admitted that this often occurs.

According to the interlocal agreement, “Islander Stadium is intended to be used jointly, for school and community organized sports purposes, for the benefit of district students, the district and the city at large.”

It is available for district and non-district use between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily. Although the district owns the facility, the city is in charge of scheduling field usage.

During the City Council’s Jan. 4 meeting, Councilmember Mike Cero expressed disapproval with the new key-card system. In his opinion, Islander Stadium should be open at all times, much like the South-end track-and-field facility.

“Key control sounds good on paper, but in practice, it quickly degrades. I don’t see the value-added purpose of having key control on these fields,” he said. “I’d like us to be sensitive to the practicality of working for the citizens, who we’re looking to give access to this facility.”

Cero voted against the interlocal agreement. His vote was outnumbered, six to one.

The interlocal agreement applies to other school district fields and facilities as well. Although Islander Stadium will be locked as of this spring, other MISD fields, such as those behind and adjacent to Mary Wayte Pool, will remain open to the public during non-school hours.

A full copy of the interlocal agreement, which includes prices for MISD field rental, can be found on the MISD and city Web sites: www.misd.k12.wa.us and www.mercergov.org.

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