The nearly whole-scale renovations done at Lander’s Bill Bush Stadium are running in line with the projected schedule, Lander activities director Serol Stauffenberg recently told the Star-Tribune.
Construction has moved smoothly enough that officials remain confident with Aug. 15 as the completion date, just over two weeks before the Tigers open the 2019 football season by hosting Pinedale. The snow and rain that postponed installment of the new turf playing surface throughout May has been offset by the installation of new lighting rigs around the track.
In fact, nearly every bit of the old Bill Bush Stadium has already been removed. All that remains are the original four light poles, which will finally be removed once school dismisses for the summer, and the scoreboard, which will stay as it was only recently installed.
The renovation project has been in the works since Stauffenberg’s first year as activities director in the 2016-17 academic year. Officials looked at the economics of the proposed project, but it wasn’t until this year they were finally able to commit to the project that, in a lot of ways, was necessary.
The former lighting structures were “basically condemned,” according to Stauffenberg. Two years ago one of the lights, originally built in 1975, caught fire during the Tigers’ regular-season finale against Rawlins. Instead of calling the game altogether, officials cut power to that one light and let the game proceed. The bleachers also weren’t compliant with the American With Disabilities Act of 1990.
Then came problems with the surrounding track.
“The track had layers upon layers and was elevated a good 12-13 inches,” Stauffenberg said. “If you were in Lane One in the sprints, it wasn’t the most friendly. One misstep and you’re not just going down, you’re really going down.”
And since Lander hosts not only the typical Class 2A/1A West Regional meets and regular-season track meets, but also the Relay For Life and other local organizations, those issues needed to be addressed.
“So we went about combining wants and wishes along with necessities and safety,” Stauffenberg said.
Most of the financing for the project was made through the sale of the lot where the old high school building sat. That building was demolished in 2004 and money made off the sale was put into a pot for future use. Two lots remain for sale, which could add more funds to the pot in the future.
“This will have a huge impact on our community,” Stauffenberg said. “Our track is used by a ton of people. ... And it’s not like we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
This project moved forward too quickly for the school to recognize the history of Bill Bush Stadium during this past football season, but they were able to hold a brief ceremony at the spring track meet Lander hosted. They’ve also taken multiple pictures during the transition with hopes of demonstrating each step taken in this colossal project.
And the community has been receptive to that. Memories associated with the old stadium were paid homage to while also looking forward with excitement. Part of that could be attributed to Lander’s 2018 football season, the Tigers’ best in five seasons.
“There’s two feet of snow on the ground and people wonder when we’re going to start playing on it,” Stauffenberg said. “A lot of teams are anxious to see it.”
Lander’s middle school will also play its football games on the new turf field, as will both Lander High School soccer teams. The Tigers have not and will not hold football practice at Bill Bush Stadium.
Even if weather proves more of an issue, like when the rain came almost immediately after the natural grass field had been torn apart, thereby forcing construction crews off-site until the soil dried, they have some built-in cushion time. The new track is the last scheduled addition and, if needed, it could be installed in late September when the Lander football team goes on the road for consecutive games.